The purpose of my trip to Chile was to participate in the Rock ‘n’ Roll Santiago Half Marathon (race # 43 of #MoniqueRuns50), which you can read about in this post. However, the country has been on my list for a while, specifically because as someone who appreciates wine, I wanted to explore Chile’s wine regions.
While time and circumstances didn’t allow me to experience the Chilean wine regions as extensively as I liked, I did get a taste, thanks to a wonderful day tour.
I was based in Santiago, so I looked for day tours to a couple of different wine regions that would allow me to visit several wineries. I went with The Little Wine Bus Tour, and the plan was to do day tours to the Maipo and Casablanca, Chile’s most famous wine regions due to their proximity to Santiago.
While classified as a New World wine region, Chilean wine has a long history rooted in the Old World. The Spanish brought Vitis vinifera vines with them when the colonized the country in the 16th century, and in the mid-19th century wine varieties from France were introduced, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carménère. Carménère was thought to be virtually extinct when it was discovered in Chile in the 90’s. Today, nearly 95% of this variety comes from Chile, and it’s often considered the county’s signature wine.
Chile’s climate ideal for growing grapes because of its location between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, which means dry and warm summers, mild winters, and a dependable supply of water that comes from the melted snow from the Andes. Chile also benefits from a lack of vine diseases and pests that plagues most wine regions.
The Little Wine Bus Tour
Described as an excursion where “the wine accompanies us all day long”, The Little Wine Bus Tour takes a small group from Santiago to a number of wineries and includes breakfast and lunch, and of course, lots of wine.
Just as the tour got underway, the guide got word that the last vineyard on our itinerary – Maipo Valley’s famous Concha y Toro winery – was canceled because of Coronavirus, and before the end of the day, the tour I’d scheduled to the Casablanca wine region the following day was also canceled because most wineries, and businesses in general as I wrote about here, were closing their doors due to Coronavirus.
Though I was disappointed that so many things were cancelled, I realized there was no sense in crying over unpoured future wine when there was so much wine to be had in the present, because honestly, if eat, drink and be merry were a vehicle, it would definitely be the little wine bus.
The first stop was the home & studio of a local artist where we were served breakfast and a lovely rosé wine from Santa Ema. And yes, you read that correctly…wine with breakfast. After touring the artist’s studio and shop, we were instructed to hold on to our wine glasses, and given the remainder of the wine for the ride to the next stop on the itinerary.
Viña Santa Ema, the winery that produced the rosé we’d just enjoyed with breakfast (and on the short car ride to the winery), was started by Italian immigrants who trace their history in Chile back to the early 1900’s. The estate is best known for its distinctive red wines, and the main grape varieties grown on the Santa Ema are Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carménère.
We sat on the estate’s sun-drenched patio taking in the spectacular scenery and sampling several of their wines, including 60/40, which, as the name suggests, is a blend of 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot, Carménère, and a Chardonnay.
Next, we went to Casa Quinta Peumayen, a lovely country home where we had a delicious lunch paired with a 2017 Sangiovese from TerraMater and De Martino’s 2016 Carmenere 347 Reserva. After lunch we had a little time to walk around the property, which offers accommodation, and has tons of animals, from dogs and cats to chickens and peacocks .
The last winery that we visited was Viña Undurrago. This sprawling wine estate, founded by Francisco Undurrago in 1885 with vines brought from Europe, is one of the oldest and largest in Chile. Undurrago is known for its state-of-the-art technology that produces award-winning wines and for being one of Chile’s first labels to export wine, and currently boasts a market of more that 65 countries around the world.
We started by tasting 3 different varieties: Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Blanc and Pinot Noir. We followed our tasting with a visit the different varietal vineyards on the property, however, we weren’t able to visit the cellars as they were another COVID casualty.
We also walked around the beautiful gardens, which were designed by renowned French landscaper, Pierre Dubois, and the Aliwen corner that pays homage to the culture of the Mapuche people with the totem poles and vegetation from Chile’s southern region.
Before leaving Viña Undurrago, I purchased a trio of wine to bring home with me. Other than race swag, I can’t think of a better souvenir.
Even More Wine
While my plans to visit more Chilean wine regions beyond Maipo Valley were thwarted I managed to make up a little ground by visiting a wine shop and the wonderful wine bar, Bocanáriz.
Bocanáriz has an extensive regional wine list and a knowledgeable staff to help you navigate it, thus providing a way to sample a number of Chilean wines. Guests can opt for a single glass, a flight of three decent sized glasses of wine or a bottle. Bocanáriz also has an excellent menu. I went to the restaurant several times while I was in Santiago, and was able to try a few different dishes and wines, including flights of white wine and bubbles.
I enjoyed one of the bubbles from the flight so much that I decided to seek it out at the wine shop, La Vinoteca. La Vinoteca, small, but prestigious, and named best wine shop in Chile by Frommer’s, specializes in hard to find and boutique wine.
Like Bocanáriz, La Vinoteca has a knowledgeable and friendly staff, and they helped me narrow down and finally choose which bottles I wanted to purchase and take home. In the end I purchased 5 bottles (3 full and 2 half), including the one I’d tasted at Bocanáriz.
Are you a fan of Chilean wine? Have you ever been to Maipo Valley or any other Chile wine region? Let me know in the comments.
Please PIN and SAVE this post