Big Surprises at the Chilean Wine Tour

With stops in Chicago and San Francisco to promote the wines of Chile, the Chilean Pro Wine Tour made a surprise announcement to those attending a seminar for the wine media. We attended this event in San Francisco on Tuesday, October 9, and learned that there is a new appellation law in Chile that divides the country’s wine regions vertically into three distinct viticultural areas. The law is so new that moderator Joshua Green, Editor of Wines & Spirits, stated, “Many in the wine community of Chile do not know about the new appellation law as yet.”

Costa, Entre Cordilleras, and Andes Appellations

The reason for the new appellations is that the old ones were too broad and did not benefit the consumer. The old wine appellations amounted to political areas, with little to do with the regions’ soil and climate conditions. As you can see on the Chilean wine map, the new appellations are divided from West to East. The Costa Appellation is influenced more by its marine climate of the Pacific Ocean and, in many areas of the coast, its limestone soils. The Entre Cordilleras zone is made up of the center valleys of Chile, where there are many microclimates and soil types. In general, the temperature range in this zone will be the highest of the three appellations. On the eastern edge of Chile, the Andes Appellation includes the vineyards that are on the slopes of the great Andes Mountain Range. In order for any bottle of wine to be labeled with one of these three appellations, 85% of the wine must be made from grapes from the new zones.

Chilean wine appellations, Costa, Entre Cordilleras, Andes Zone

The new wine map of Chile


Here is winemaker Felipe Muller East of Vina Tabali describing the new viticultural zones and how they came about.

Surprise Number Two

At the seminar we had the opportunity to taste nine wines, three each from the new appellations, and then a much broader selection of wines at the general tasting held after the seminar. Twenty-three wineries were represented, each pouring their lineup of whites and reds. The surprise for us was the overall quality of the wines we tasted. One of my fellow wine tasters expressed, “Wonderful wines, not a dog in the bunch.”

What stood out for me was the character and depth of the red wines, and in particular the Carmenere wines. My previous experience with Carmenere was not enjoyable. I thought they all had a vegetative character and were unexciting in taste. These Carmeneres were nothing of the sort. The Carmenares I tasted at this tasting were elegant and complex, and none had that vegetative undertone. I will be on the lookout for these Chilean wines and others I enjoyed at this tasting. They are for the most part reasonably priced, and the quality is very much on the upswing.

Chilean wine tour

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