Red Hot Chile
I sample several Chilean wines that evening, ahead of touring through several vineyards the next day. Chile has 14 recognised wine districts, and the Maipo Valley just outside Santiago ranks as one of the biggest with more than 70 vineyards. It’s best known for its red varietals, however unlike Australian wine regions, you wouldn’t say it’s pretty. Electricity towers blight the skyline and ramshackle workers’ quarters often spoil the views.
I tour through the original haciendas and modern production facilities of Santa Rita winery first. It’s one of the oldest in the area, having commenced operations in 1880, and one of the cellars from that time has survived countless earthquakes. In the tasting room I try sauvignon blanc, carménère and cabernet sauvignon varieties before returning to Santiago for the evening.
A morning city tour of Santiago takes in the Presidential Palace, the Plaza de Armas and the Central Market, before Maurice insists we climb San Cristobal Hill for its unrivalled views over the city. Santiago is a city of almost six million people – the sixth-largest in Latin America – and its suburbs tumble from the lower reaches of the Andes Mountains into a fertile basin where much of the country’s agricultural production is harvested.