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If there's a country that's on the up in the wine world at the moment it has to be Chile. In the last few years, Chilean wine production has gone through the roof and everyone is getting excited, including the winemakers. Boasting unrivalled wines from up and coming wine regions, quality that can't be beaten and exceptional value for money, it's not hard to see why Chile is the place to look.
Since the fall of the dictator General Pinochet in 1989, the Chilean wine industry has boomed. Thanks to much investment in vineyards and modern wineries, the Chileans have really got to grips with producing great value, everyday-drinking wines which have the fruit and flavour of New World wines, with the subtlety and depth of the Old World. So if you want a decent bottle of wine around the £5 mark, then Chilean wine really does come up trumps.
Chile is also producing some great tasting wines at the mid to higher ends of the market. Thanks to copper billionaires taking residence in the country and buying up wineries in their spare time, you'll come across some designer Chilean wines that are so sensational that they will give Bordeaux a run for its money. And in an effort not to loose out, a number of Bordeaux wine houses have invested heavily in Chilean wine. Domaine Barons de Rothschild-Lafite, one of the big French makers, produces the exceptional Vina Los Vascos in Chile. Not only are foreign wine makers exempt from complex French wine laws when they make wine in Chile (meaning they have free reign over the production techniques), but the climate, soil and fact that Chile is virtually Phylloxera free, makes it the ideal place to experiment and really push the boundaries of wine making. And the best bit? As wine drinkers, we get to benefit from all the technical expertise, without paying the Bordeaux premium.
Chilean wine has a head start over a number of its rivals. Not only is Chile blessed with a near perfect climate and has a long ripening season, but it also benefits from snowmelt from the Andes, making for optimum growing conditions. Combine that with a lack of disease and pests and you can begin to see why winemakers can see so much potential in growing their vines there.
Chile has such a diverse range of wine regions; you'll be spoilt for choice when it comes to deciding what to buy first. From the warm, dry region of Aconcagua Valley in the north, through to the wet, cooler region of Bio Bio in the south, you'll come across fresh, fruity Chardonnay and searing, pure Sauvignon Blanc, through to juicy, ripe Cabernet Sauvignon and some of the smoothest, finest Merlot that you've ever tasted. That's not forgetting the Central valley south of Santiago, where more than 90% of Chile's wine exports are produced. In this region, the moderate, maritime climate creates the perfect growing conditions for the Bordeaux varieties.
Carmenere is fast developing into Chile's signature grape, which is quite strange when you consider that the Chileans didn't even know they were growing it until 1994! Now Carmenere is recognised again and is providing a delicious addition to the range of Chilean red wine available. Described in taste as a cross between Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon it is the perfect wine to enjoy with light red meats and vegetables. It can vary between being smooth and fruity, and being a dark smoky mouthful. Chilean Carmenere is also great with a variety of foods. Try the lighter styles with pork and roasted vegetables, whilst the heavier numbers go wonderfully with richer darker meats.