Chile has been growing wine for centuries, with Vitis Vinifera vines having been first brought to the country during the 1500s by Spanish conquistadors who settled here during the colonisation of the region. However, it was not until the 1800s that French wine varieties like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Franc and Carmenere were introduced to Chile.
During the 1980s, there was a renaissance in Chilean wine production when fermentation tanks of stainless steel were introduced as well as oak barrels which began to be used for the aging process. This led to a huge improvement in the quality of the local wine produced, and the export trade grew dramatically. In 1995 there were only 12 wineries in Chile, however just a decade later the numbers had grown to more than 70, showing the level of interest in buying Chilean wines.
During the later half of the 20th century, many French people moved to Chile and this led to an expansion in the Chilean wine knowledge. Today, Chile is the world’s 5th biggest wine exporter and the 7th biggest producer of fine wines thanks to the climate which has often been described as being partway between that found in California and that of France.
Some of the region’s most commonly found grape varieties include Merlot, Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon, although there are more than 20 different varieties of grape grown here and many of the nation’s wineries are starting to experiment with the varieties they grow and use. Cabernet Sauvignon is the country’s single most popular grape variety and Chilean producers have their own distinct growing style, which results in a wine that is easy to drink, with its soft tannins and mint, olive, smoke and blackcurrant overtones. Sparkling wines are also made here, however they are not yet well established.