Chile’s status as a world-class wine destination might be relatively new, but as a country, it has a long history of viticulture dating back to the European vines brought by Jesuit missionaries in the 1700s.
But wine tasting in today’s Chile is an experience rooted in the 21st century. Here you’ll find a range of modern wineries, many of which are within a few hours’ drive of capital Santiago, while others boast five-star hotels and restaurants where you can kick back and soak up every last drop of vineyard views.
Officially Chile’s most awarded winery, Casa Silva is the perfect introduction to the country’s signature grape: carménère. Tucked into the northern stretches of Chile’s premiere red wine region, the Colchagua Valley, this winery is the oldest in the area and run by the second and third generations of the Bouchon family. Stop by for a tour of their terracotta roofed winery followed by a tasting and lunch at their truly outstanding restaurant, Polo Club House. Dine on the rooftop terrace that overlooks the polo field where members of the family—world cup winners, no less—play.
A short drive east of the Colchagua Valley’s main town, Santa Cruz, the Viu Manent winery is home to 150-year-old vines and their awarded Secret range of cabernet sauvignon and carménère. With the neat, leafy rows of the estate’s vineyards providing a picture-prefect backdrop, there’s no better way to explore than from the comfort of a horse-drawn carriage ride, which drops by their cellar for a seven-pour tasting. Short on time? Browse their shop for wine at bargain prices before heading over to the vineyard-lined Winery Café to trial their latest vintages in the sunshine.
The most unusual of the Colchagua wineries is the pioneering Montes. With its state-of-the-art winery inspired by feng shui and amphitheater-shaped cellar where the wine is gently aged to the sound of Gregorian chants, this winery plays by its own rules. It definitely shows in the quality of the wine, with their cabernet sauvignon, carménère, and syrah frequently sending ripples across the viticulture world. What’s more, their on-site restaurant, Fuegos de Apalta, is more than worth the top-dollar prices. Come hungry: run by pioneering Argentine chef Francis Mallman, expect to be served the juiciest, most delicious steak you’ve ever eaten, cooked over their wood-fired grill.
Another of the Colchagua Valley’s most exciting wineries, Clos Apalta is fully organic and biodynamic. Its trademark blend, Clos Apata, was ranked among the 100 best wines in the world. A draw for both oenophiles and architecture lovers alike, the Clos Apalta winery is housed in a striking, barrel-like building installed into the hillside, which you can tour or just use to appreciate the sublime views of their 150 acres from its rooftop restaurant, for which you’ll want to book at least two weeks in advance in summer. Deeper into the vineyard, their Relais & Chateaux boutique cabins promise luxurious comfort if you choose to extend your stay.
If you’ve only time for an afternoon’s tasting, hop on the metro in Santiago and head out to the city’s southern suburbs. The vineyards of Santa Carolina were first planted here in what was open land in 1875 and while the city may have swallowed them up, the vines were moved to other parts of the country in the 70s, the picturesque, terracotta-roofed buildings of the original winery remain. These are fine surroundings for a tour of their crumbling wine cellar that has survived a century of earthquakes, where you’ll want to savor their rich and heady cabernet sauvignon.
For a taste of old-world wine, there’s nowhere better than the rambling vineyards of the Bouchon estate. With carignan and cabernet sauvignon vines dating from the late 19th century and the wild país varietal grown organically here, you can expect a singular fusion of classic grapes with a modern touch. Take a tour of their adobe brick winery or find an excuse to stay longer in their exclusive hotel, Casa Buchon, which once again blends the old with the new thanks to its 180-year-old adobe buildings and elegant modern furnishings.
Alpacas keep the grass in check at this organic winery, which was the first in the entire continent to be certified as biodynamic. With more than 2,200 acres of vineyards, it’s also the largest organic winery in the world. Set in the leafy landscapes of the Casablanca Valley, Emiliana specializes in chardonnay, as well as deep syrah blends, which you can generally sample without an advance reservation.
Attilio and Mochi
Brazil might not come to mind when you think of world-class wine, but the Brazilian owners of this boutique winery in the San Antonio Valley have other ideas. They only opened in 2011, but have since established a name for themselves through their cool-climate wines that include cabernet franc, malbec, pinot noir, and the valley’s first grenache. Tours and tastings are only available by appointment, but you’ll be guided by the owners for a truly unique and intimate visit.
You’ll be forgiven if you can’t find the Matetic winery, as its clever location built into a hillside in the Rosario Valley makes it practically indistinguishable from its lush vine surroundings. Both vineyard and working farm, the biodynamic Matetic impresses with its fresh sauvignon blancs and chardonnays. Sample with a winery tour or at their Equilibrio restaurant, specializing in classical Chilean cuisine using organic produce. If you’re tempted to linger longer, stay at their luxurious hotel, La Casona, from where you can embark on horseback riding or hiking across the 150-hectare estate.
Lying 2.5 miles (4 kilometers) from the Pacific Ocean, the small, family-run Casa Marin is owned by the country’s first female winemaker, María Luz Marín. Just about 10 acres of land produce a dazzling array of cool-climate, single-vineyard wines such as their elegant and balanced sauvignon blanc and pinot noir and the delicate and unusual sauvignon gris, all of which are consistently win awards across the globe. Sample the wines in the tasting room before wandering across the road to their sensational Cipreses Winebar for a fine-dining but affordably-priced lunch.