Ms Skinnyfat

A Food & Travel Blog from Singapore

Chilean Wine Country- Casablanca and Aconcagua Valley

By Tuesday, August 22, 2017 , ,

When we were planning our 16 day South America trip, other than making sure to include Machu Picchu Peru in the plans (read about it here), we also wanted to sample the new world wines at the source. The plan was to sample the award-winning Malbec in Mendoza (since we were starting in Argentina), but the airport was closed for maintenance then and i didn't want to waste too much time on the roads. So we looked to Chile for inspiration!
There was a time when Chilean wines were considered cheap and pedestrian, but that is not the case now. Do you know that Chile produces more Cabernet Sauvignon than the U.S.? The ideal climate allows for the production of exceptional reds at very affordable prices! 
Also, Chile has their unique Carménère, a savory medium-bodied red with a red bell pepper note. The vegetal red goes very well with greens of course and works for those who likes some spice in their wine. This grape was thought to be Merlot when they first imported the grape cutting from Bordeaux in the 1800s. It was not till 1994 that they found out that it is actually a Bordeaux variety Carménère. This varietal is nearly extinct in Bordeaux now and and thus is exclusive to Chile.
The wine region stretches from Limari Valley up North, till Malleco Valley down South and it was hard picking which wine regions to visit due to the short amount of time we had. From Santiago, the most convenient vineyards to visit are Maipo, Colchagua Valley, or the Aconcagua region. We went for the best of both whites and reds at Casablanca Valley and Aconcagua Valley, skipping the all-familiar Cabernet Sauvignons from Maipo (i.e. Concha y Toro, Cousiño Macul etc.) since we drink plenty of these in Singapore. 
Casablanca Valley
Casablanca Valley is actually part of the Aconcagua Valley, and is only an hour away from Santiago. This young valley is Chile's fastest growing wine region and has many modern cellars and boutique wineries. The cool climate and soil favor the production of some delicious Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir.
We visited Veramonte, which is one of the largest vineyards in Chile, with over 1,000 acres in the Casablanca Valley. Their most popular varietals are Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Merlot. 
Veramonte's Ritual line of Pinot Noir is really complex and it absolutely smashed any preconceived notion that Pinot Noirs are light weights. Other vineyards worth visiting are Matetic (for their organic biodynamic wines), and Indòmita (for their lovely whites and gourmet Spanish Chilean food).
If you head further west, you'll reach coastal towns of Valparaiso and Viña del Mar. Since we already headed out of Santiago, we thought we might as well stay the night in Viña del Mar. Bad choice. It was extremely boring (we took a 30 min boat ride to see 2 seals maybe) and may not be necessary unless you intend to get yourself smashed at the vineyards. 
Aconcagua Valley 
Moving on to some reds! The Aconcagua Valley is 100 km north of Santiago and is known for its excellent terroirs for red grapes, such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Carménère. A must visit in Aconcagua is Errazuriz, home to Chilean wine pioneer Don Maximiano Errazuriz.
Errazuriz made a name for itself when they came in second at the 2004 Berlin Tasting with their 'Sena', ahead of wines from Italy and France. Since then, they have picked up many more awards.  Make time for a tour and a lazy lunch in their lovely compound while you are here!
We had a lovely 4-course lunch with wine pairing from their Max Reserva range. The garden is absolutely gorgeous and we had this lovely fish dish that paired amazingly with their Chardonnay.
This was certainly one of the best overall meal we had in Chile. After lunch, we then continued with a tour of their cellars
Isn't the light (and model) lovely? Hee.
You could do a tasting in their gorgeous private room in the original building. Their cellars are here too.
Another popular winery in Aconcagua Valley is Viña San Esteban. Check out that view of the Andes Mountains!
San Esteban is a pioneer of growing grapes on rocky soils with partial sun exposure. The grapes are not only used for wines, they are also exported as table grapes! 
We tried several of the signatures, like the Gran Reserva Laguna del Inca blend of Cab Sauv, Syrah, and Carmenère. This wine scored 90pts by Robert Parker's Wine Advocate. Black berries and exotic herbs and spice, with a mineral lift to the finish. 
We barely scratched the surface of Chilean wines. Would certain love to check out Colchagua and Maipo given the chance, and Mendoza in Argentina next! If you're in Chile next, make sure you check out their wineries!


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