Being offered a glass of wine in a Chilean household is a gift. It’s the silent promise that you are welcome in their home and will not leave before your belly has been filled with some of the freshest food you will find this side of the equator. Refusing that wine would an insult to your Chilean host (well, that and not finishing every morsel of your meal). Chilean wine culture has been growing ever since the Spanish planted the first vines in the 16th century. Nowadays, Chile has plenty wine to offer its guests. It boasts a wide variety of reds, whites, dry wines, sweet wines, and just about any type of wine you can imagine for just about any type of food.
Let’s start first with Chile’s geography. Chile is a geographically isolated country. If even after looking at a map of the long, skinny country leaves you shaking your head, allow me to explain. Chile is surrounded by geographical obstacles. The Atacama Desert is in the north, Antarctica is in the south, the large, seemingly impenetrable Andes Mountains are to the east, and the Pacific Ocean is to the west. That has allowed Chile to remain pest and plague free. Chile has not suffered through any of the plagues that have hurt the European or Californian harvests. It is precisely for this reason that you will notice upon your entry to this funny-shaped country that the customs regulations are particularly strict and well enforced.
Speaking of a funny-shaped country, most of the country is speckled with vineyards. There are 14 wine growing valleys to be specific. All the valleys are famous for different varieties of wine. One of the most famous is the Maipo (and largest) valley located within driving distance from the surprisingly sophisticated capital Santiago. It’s located in that valley that you can find vineyards that belong to some of the more internationally known wines companies of Chile such as Concha y Toro, Cousiño Macul, and Undurraga. However, simply having a recognizable label is not the only sign you are holding a good bottle of wine. Chile has many new vineyards popping up every year and all of them have something to offer.
Moving along to good wines, it is not difficult to find a good wine in Chile. In fact, Chile is one of the countries where it is easiest to find a good value to quality ratio for your favorite wine. A good bottle of cabernet sauvignon will cost you around $10. That is much less than the average French wine. Imagine how much more steak you can buy with those types of savings. Oh, and did I mention that Chile is also known for their steak?
Now, what should you do when your host pours you a glass of wine? As with any Chilean meal, most guests do not take a bite of food until everyone is at the table. This is the same with wine. Once your host has sniffed, swirled, and sipped their wine, then you can do the same. During a typical family weekend lunch, it is not uncommon to drink an entire bottle of wine or more. This can make the typical foreigner feel a tad light-headed so if you don’t want them to refill your glass, the best thing to do is drink slowly and, if asked, say you are savoring it.
Of course if you really want to experience Chilean wine, the best thing you can do is come to Chile to see for yourself the picturesque vineyards nestled into the Andes or along the coast, smell the rich bouquet of the reds and taste the sweetness of the whites. The second best thing would be to buy a bottle for dinner tonight, but if you prefer to be the trendsetter of your group then we recommend a tour. Go see all that Chile has to offer. We guarantee you won’t regret it.