Stretched out 3,000 miles along the west coast of South America but on average only 110 miles wide: what does that offer wine growers? Pretty much everything is the answer. Rainfall varies from 90mm in the far north to 1500mm in the south and the terrain offers warm and fertile coastal plains to higher altitude cool climate vineyards. It includes pretty much all the world's climates apart from tropical and sub-tropical. Different grape varieties need different climates to prosper and this means Chile can accommodate many of them.
Many of Chile's vineyards have been planted in the last twenty years and are now really hitting their stride. As well as the Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay that have always grown well here, new blends and single varietals are also flourishing including Carmenere, Gewurztraminer, Carignan and Cabernet Franc.
But in recent years the consistency and quality of Chilean wine has improved markedly as a result of enthusiastic and curious winemakers who have begun to fully exploit this variety of terroirs by matching the right grape(s) to the topography and climate.
Tim Atkin MW has been a fan for many years. He writes in 2020, "Chile's wine industry, despite all its trials and tribulations, is in a very good place right now. There have never been so many talented producers, so many wine regions, some of them yet to produce their first grapes, so much excellence, showcased by the superlative 2018 vintage. However hard it may be, Chile should look to the future with confidence, convinced of the world-class quality of its best wines"
Like Australia before it, Chile is reinventing itself. Too many UK consumers still think of Chile as a source of uninteresting and mass produced wines. Increasingly the reality is of a country innovating, with varietals and blends, utilising fully the variety of terroirs, but thanks to the climate able to offer consistency and excellent value.