At Home with Internationally Acclaimed Vintners
Chilean wines are taking the world by storm, and oenophiles are keen to head straight to the viticultural source. Chile’s winemaking originated with the Spanish conquistadores and missionaries who cultivated the grape for sacramental purposes, but the wines really came into their own when noble French cuttings were planted in the mid-19th century. The principal vineyards lie in the provinces of Aconcagua, Valparaiso, and Santiago, where a series of beautiful valleys, formed during the Ice Age, are rich with fertile soil. Chile escaped the plagues that later blighted France’s vines: Together with Australia, it is the only country still planted with its original rootstock, and its ungrafted vines now last three to four times longer than their European counterparts.
The third largest wine exporter to the United States, after France and Italy, Chile boasts a list of star vintners led by Viña Concha y Toro, the largest and best known in the United States; the Viña Cousiño Macul, the country’s oldest; and Viña Santa Rita, world famous for its Cabernets. Travelers to the region fill their days with tastings and gourmet lunches at vineyard restaurants, visits to local produce markets, and an obligatory stop at La Sebastiana, the exquisite coastal home (one of three) of Chile’s Nobel Prize-winning poet, the late Pablo Neruda. Visiting Chile without paying homage to Neruda, the locals say, is like going to church and not praying to God.