This substantial and important region houses some of Chile’s oldest vineyards and includes the capital Santiago to the north. The suburbs of Santiago touch the vineyards of Maipo, the northern most of the region’s sub zones. The valley runs an impressive 400km north to south, taking in the sub-regions of Rapel, Maule and Curico. Maipo is split into three further areas – Alto Maipo Central Maipo and Costal Maipo. The main element that influences grape growing in Alto Maipo are the Andes mountains. They provide an important water source for irrigation. Central Maipo has a terroir perfectly suited to red varieties: warm but not hot growing conditions, alluvial soils and a dry climate. Coastal fogs, which drift a long way inland help to moderate the Maipo climate, the vineyards of Coastal Maipo are found in the vicinity of the Maipo river, again a region producing mainly red wine. The wines are, on the whole, better than ever, showing ripe and vibrant fruit and great ageing potential. The best reds from Maipo have traditionally been Cabernet Sauvignon but increasingly Rhone varieties are becoming more widespread.
Rapel is, again, a relative newcomer to the Valle Central viticultural scene, but has shown great potential for fine wine production. In particular, the classic Bordeaux varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot seem to like the Rapel climate. Further south, the warmer region of Colchagua is known for its rich, ripe reds including Chile’s signature variety, Carmenere. In contrast, Cachapoal is becoming renowned for its success with early ripening varieties, including Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. This could be Chile’s Burgundy, judging from the wines emanating from here in recent years!
Curico is something of a chameleon, easily adaptable and able to turn out both fine red and whites with ease. A region with a proud history, today over 30 varieties of wine grapes are grown and wine growing is the main industry. The area’s modern history began in the 1970s with Spanish producer Torres. They quickly saw the great potential of the region and kick-started the trends of foreign investment into Chile’s vineyards, their wines are some of the best produced in Curico today. Wine Growers benefit from large mid-season temperature fluctuations, helping retain good acidity in the balance. The best examples are fruit rich yet have wonderful balance and poise.
Last but by no means least, we arrive at Maule, one of Chile’s oldest wine regions. Long ignored by the country’s wine makers, Maule is at least now receiving the attention it deserves. It was traditionally dominated by white grape varieties but today it is the reds that excel. Merlot, in particular has been very successful in recent years.
Region del Sur
South of the Central Valley we find the Region del Sur, which includes the sub-regions of Itata and, immediately to the south, Bío Bío. As you might imagine, being the most southerly of the grape growing regions, the climate is cool and rather wet! Wine makers in this area have been experimenting with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, often with good results. Alsace varieties like Riesling have also shown some potential. The best wines undoubtedly come from Bío Bío.