One of Chile’s newer viticultural areas, the region includes the important sub-zones of Elqui, Limari, and Choapa. Elqui, like its neighbor the Atacama region, has long been associated with table grape production but in recent years high altitude sites (up to 2000 meters) that run from the coast to the Andes have been better exploited with impressive results. Syrah, in particular, seems to flourish in the region, benefiting from the dry, sunny climate and cooler night time temperatures the higher altitude sites offer. Many good, full-bodied reds are also now being produced from Bordeaux varieties, this is definitely one to watch.
Limari, in contrast, has a history that spans the centuries, the first plantings took place in the mid 16th century and the vineyards you see today are the ancestors of some of the first vineyards taken to Chile by the Spanish. However, winemakers in recent times have been reassessing the potential of this previously underperforming region, planting mainly red varieties on cooler sites that benefit from the Pacific breezes. Irrigation is again essential in this dry climate and Chardonnay has also been showing promise in recent years.
Choapa is Chile’s latest viticultural experiment, an area that wine growers see as offering great potential for cool climate viticulture. Although the region contains no wineries, small quantities of Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon have been planted and are yielding promising results.