What You Can’t See Can Make a Big Difference in Wine Quality


In Chile, one of the key factors in the growing of quality winegrapes and the crafting of fine wines cannot be seen.

The cool sea air in Chile is partially blocked by the Coastal Mountains, although it finds its way inland by following the course of the transversal river valleys. During the day, sea breezes carried by the cold Humboldt Current penetrate inland, and each night, cold air descends from the snow-covered peaks of the Andes.

There is not a visitor who hits Chile’s shores who is not amazed by the country’s broad and cool coastal areas. With a shoreline spanning more than 4,000 kilometers, a large part of Chile is caressed by the Pacific Ocean, making it a paradise for water sports as well as a dream-come-true for those who love seafood — and wine.

Chilean wines have long been said to flourish on fertile plains and the steep hillsides of the majestic Andes Mountains. That has long been true, but then Casablanca made its debut in the early 1980s. Chile’s first cool-climate coastal region soon was turning out crisp, fresh wines that caught the world’s attention — and the search for new terroirs up and down the country was on.

That was just the beginning of a new chapter in Chilean wine. Today, not only has the number of varieties produced in the country increased, but so has the number of wine styles. With multiple microclimates from which to choose, winemakers and grape growers have invested considerable resources in matching the right varieties to the right growing areas — with magnificent results in the bottle.

The Chilean coastline is significant, but its role also is dependent upon the cooling effects of the Humboldt Current, which moves northward from southern Chile and makes the sea particularly cold. When it hits the coastline in northern Chile, it causes fog despite the total absence of clouds. This prevents the abundant rays of sun that shine over much of the country from reaching the vines, and therefore helps them ripen properly — the No. 1 factor in the ultimate quality of the wines.

Posted in Wine Region Profiles
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