Discovering wine from South America

Chile is the largest exporter of wine to the US; around two thirds of all Chilean wine produced is exported. Chile occupies most of South America’s Pacific Coast, with vineyards squeezed in between the ocean and the Andes, creating the perfect conditions for the vines to grow and produce great wines. These same conditions work as a barrier to help protect Chilean vines and ensure that diseases like Phylloxera will never reach the country – and in fact, some of the vines are the same or direct descendants from those brought over from Europe – mostly from Bordeaux – centuries ago.

For example, the Carmenere grape, Chile’s flagship grape, originated from France but has all but disappeared from its home country. The Carmenere grape produces Baron Philippe de Rothschild Camernere Reserva, an amazing wine full of pepper notes, and is inexpensive. The Central Valley (with famous sub regions like Maipo, Rapel, Curico and Maule) in Chile produces around 80 percent of all Chilean wine. However, other areas like Aconcagua or Limari Valley in Coquimbo produce excellent wines too.

Chilean wines are perhaps some of the most famous wines globally, although not for their Chateaus as in Bordeaux, but because they are widely available and offer great value for money – Chilean wines are among the cheapest on the market. Having said that, there are some Chilean wineries that have decided to change this trend by making absolutely amazing wines, which although not as cheap as people expect when they buy wine from Chile, are still well below the prices of similar Old World wines. An example of this is Montes. Although it is priced higher than most Chilean wines, the quality rivals that of much more expensive wineries from the Old World. Montes produces icons like Purple Angel, which is absolutely fantastic. Another example is Bouchon winery in Maule Valley with its iconic wine Mingre, a Bordeaux blend that is simply amazing.

Chilean wines are great, and if you spend a little bit more rather than going for the entry level labels, you are likely to be positively surprised for both their quality and value.

Find Chilean wines at Wine Embassy (13 Ngo Duc Ke, D1 & 41 Quoc Huong, Thao Dien, D2; 090 281 0523)

BIO: Alfredo de la Casa has been organizing wine tastings for over 20 years and published three wine books, including the Gourmand award winner for best wine education book. You can reach him at WineInVietNam.