Chile’s vineyards are scattered among 15 distinct valleys across the country
Wine tourism in Chile has grown so much in the last few years that many privately owned wineries are joining in—by offering wine tours, or hotel rooms in some cases and small restaurants in others.
“Visiting wineries in Chile has become a growing trend, mainly because there are so many great ones so close to our country’s capital,” says Juan Pablo Chomar, director of Turismo Chile’s North America division. “There are so many great wineries near Santiago and also many beaches and ski resorts so close. So, you can be skiing one moment and visiting a winery the next, and finishing your day at the beach.”
There are 188 wineries in Chile, of which 96 are devoted to tourism, 14 have restaurants and nine provide accommodation. Forty are found just outside of Santiago.
With so many wineries, where do you begin? Travel Agent attended The Wines of Chile Experience in New York City last month to find out.
The Wine Valleys
Among the 15 different valleys that produce wine in Chile, some of the more notable ones are Casablanca, Maipo, San Antonio/Leyda, Cachapoal, Colchagua, Curico and Maule.
There are four main wineries in San Antonio/Leyda. In the Maipo Valley, there are 21 wineries. The Cachapoal Valley has some of the best Carmenere—the country’s signature wine made from a grape variety found only in Chile. It was originally made in France, before that particular grape became extinct there. Years later, it was rediscovered in Chile.
There are 23 wineries in the Colchagua Valley, most of which have small hotels, guest houses and even horseback riding. The Curico Valley has six, and the Maule Valley’s 14 are the latest entrants into the tourism industry.
Our First Winery Tour
Travel Agent traveled to Chile in April as part of the USTOA Out of Country Meeting 2010 and had our first brush with one of its vineyards. We took a nearly 45-minute ride to the town of Pirque, south of Santiago. Not long after leaving W Santiago, where we stayed, we found ourselves in the Concha y Toro Winery (011-56- 2476-5000). It is home to many excellent wines, a terrific restaurant and a shop that not only sells affordable and delicious wines, but plenty of spices and cooking oils as well. We suggest booking a tour for clients staying in Santiago. And tell them not to leave before tasting the Marques Casa Concha 2006 Chardonnay. Although Chile is widely known for its reds, this was one of the best white wines we’ve ever tasted.
For details on the Wines of Chile Experience, agents should contact Lori Tieszen (212-219-9350, [email protected]), executive director, Wines of Chile USA.
Getting to Chile
LAN Airlines—which, coincidentally, has the only in-flight magazine devoted to wine, In Wines—offers service to Santiago, Chile, from a number of travel hubs in the U.S., including New York, Miami, Los Angeles and San Francisco. In addition, LAN has connections from Santiago to other Chilean destinations such as Puerto Montt, Punta Arenas, Calama and Concepcion.