A woman walks her Great Danes under a spread of vines. Grapes were first planted in Chile by a Spanish friar in the mid-1500s – a good supply of altar wine was important for Catholic mass – but it was not until French varieties more suited to the climate were planted in 1851 that wine production really took off.
Chile – Fact Check

The wine that’s back from the dead

Photo by Robert Warren

Chile – Fact Check The wine that’s back from the dead

In the Casablanca Valley, just south of Santiago, I watch the rich Chilean soil flow through the broad hands of noted local winemaker Ignacio Recabarren. He looks like a man in love, his eyes closed as he sniffs the aroma with his rather wonderful nose.

Kieran Meeke
Kieran Meeke Travel Writer

We are talking about how much more fertile the earth is here than on the other, rain-shadowed side of the Andes in Argentina. Ignacio works for Concha y Toro wines, the Chilean company that in 1944 became the first winery in the world to trade on the New York Stock Exchange.

Its worldwide success is built in these valleys of Central Chile, each with their own unique terroir. All the familiar grape varieties are here, and one unique one: the ruby-red Carménère.

This so-called “grandfather of Bordeaux” – first transplanted to Chile from France in the 17th century – has been resurrected after being thought dead for more than a century. It disappeared in its motherland under the fatal blow of phylloxera, a sap-sucking insect pest that arrived from North America in the 1850s and almost wiped out Europe’s vineyards.

“I put my life into this wine,” says Ignacio and, when we taste a glass that he pronounces “Magnificent” after a healthy sniff, I am glad he did.

Let's taste that wine!

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The rolling vineyards of Chile, such as those in the Aconcagua Valley, have made it world-famous for its wines. But, perhaps surprisingly, that is one of its least important exports, making up less than 2 per cent of the total. Copper and other minerals, at almost 50 per cent, are the major exports, while its salmon exports make it the world’s third-biggest supplier. It has the highest GDP in Latin America. Photo by Paul Harris / Getty Images

Paul Harris

Paul Harris

Agency
Getty Images

The rolling vineyards of Chile, such as those in the Aconcagua Valley, have made it world-famous for its wines. But, perhaps surprisingly, that is one of its least important exports, making up less than 2 per cent of the total. Copper and other minerals, at almost 50 per cent, are the major exports, while its salmon exports make it the world’s third-biggest supplier. It has the highest GDP in Latin America.

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