Chilean Wine Festivals Highlight Nation’s Diverse Environments
PHOTO: The Vina Casa Marin winery in Chile’s San Antonio valley. (Photo by Brian Major).
Chilean wine has achieved a global status that places the country’s vintages among the world’s best. The country’s top-shelf viticulture has also launched a legion of travelers who, each year, faithfully trek to the South American nation to visit the country’s many picturesque wineries.
There are estimated 180 wineries in Chile and wine is produced even in the Atacama Desert, considered the world’s driest. It’s possible even to take a subway from cosmopolitan Santiago to a winery.
The 2,670-mile long country’s amazing array of natural environments has led to the production of a diverse collection of wines. Travelers can sample the fruits of the winemakers’ labor each March and April, when dozens of wineries participate in a series of harvest festivals.
Travelers looking to partake in Chile’s wine-making culture can take part in activities including “pisoteo” (barefoot grape-crushing) during the festivals. Following the wine route also allows visitors to experience some of the diverse regions.
The Colchagua Valley vineyards for example are famous for world-class white and red wines. The Maipo Valley’s unique topography allows winemakers to cultivate a variety of grapes across a range of altitudes. The Casablanca Valley specializes in white Chilean wines; the valley’s wine harvest festival is celebrated every year in April.
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The Curicó Valley is known for its Cabernet Sauvignon grapes, and its Curicó Wine Harvest Festival is the longest running of its kind in Chile. The Maule Valley features more hectares of vineyards than any Chilean region. Tour companies specializing in Chile including Upscape offer hiking and biking tours of the Maule and Maipo. The Limarí Valley in northern Chile is an off-the-beaten path option for travelers seeking emerging wine-making regions.
Less than an hour outside of Santiago in the San Antonio valley lies Vina Casa Marin, a bucolic vineyard and winery founded in 2000 by Chile’s first and only female vineyard owner, Maria Luz Marin.
The outstanding wines now produced here have received multiple awards, including World’s Best Sauvignon Blanc at the Bordeaux Sauvignon Blanc World Congress in 2010. The winery was also selected as Winery of the Year in 2010 by the industry association Wines of Chile. Casa Marín specializes in Pinot Noir, Syrah, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling, Gewürztraminer and Sauvignon Gris, all cool-climate wines.
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Luz Marin established the winery here in 2003 what was considered a poor region for grapevines due to its location just 2.5 miles from the ocean, in a windy, cold area covered by fog during the summer and winter months.
Marin, a skilled winemaker, was convinced the conditions were ideal for growing vines capable of producing a superior quality fruit than other valleys with higher temperatures and larger production cycles.
Thus while her harvests are not abundant, Luz Marin’s plants produce strong, healthy grapes with superior flavor and mineral concentration that add “unique qualities and character to the wines,” she said. “The quality compares with any in the world, but prices remain lower than those from New Zealand and France,” she said. The Casa Marin winery includes two-room guest house accommodating four.
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