Why the Wines of Chile's Far South Should Be on Your Radar
Chile's reputation has long rested on Bordeaux varieties—dense Cabernets, grassy Sauvignon Blancs. The new Chile represents a turn away from that, and in some ways a turn to its roots. As Julio Bouchon, a top producer in southern Chile says, “In a way, people have forgotten Chile’s actual wine past.” The País variety, as he points out, “comes from Spain, to the Canary Islands, to Mexico with Spanish missionaries, then up and down to California and Chile in the 1600s.”
The rediscovered southern regions of Chilean wine are where you’ll find old-vine País, along with Carignan and Cinsaut: Maule Valley, Itata Valley, Bío Bío, even Patagonia. (Maule is technically the southern end of the Central Valley but for all intents and purposes belongs in this group.) This is the Chile of small, independent producers; family-owned vineyards full of gnarled old vines; and a growing interest in low-intervention and other less technologically driven styles of winemaking.
2019 Viña Maitia Aupa Pipeño Red ($12)
Old-school pipeño wines were made by farmers to drink after the harvest. This lightly tobacco-y, fruity País-plus-Carignan version comes from Maule Valley–based husband-and-wife winemakers David Marcel and Loreta Garau.
2018 Pedro Parra Y Familia Imaginador Cinsault ($20)
Pedro Parra, an acclaimed terroir consultant, founded his winery in 2013 to focus on historic vineyards throughout the Itata Valley. This old-vine Cinsaut smells of dry spices and flowers, and it bursts with strawberry fruit.
2019 J. Bouchon País Salvaje ($20)
This Beaujolais-like red, with its wild strawberry and rose notes, is delicious (especially chilled), and it’s also fascinating—it’s made from wild País vines, over 120 years old, that grow curled around trunks and branches of trees in a dry creek bed in Maule.
2018 P.S. Garcia Bravado Itata Valley ($20)
Felipe Garcia is at the forefront of the new wave of Chilean winemakers (he cofounded MOVI, Chile’s association of independent vintners). This field blend of Syrah and other varieties is herbal and currant-y, dense with flavor but not heavy at all.
2014 Erasmo Reserva De Caliboro ($20)
Erasmo’s organically farmed estate is owned by Count Francesco Marone Cinzano of the acclaimed Col d’Orcia winery in Brunello di Montalcino. But this Cabernet blend speaks clearly of Maule with its dark cherry and earthy forest-floor flavors.
2018 De Martino Gallardia Cinsault ($20)
Family-owned De Martino was founded in 1934 in the Maipo Valley, but it owns a number of ancient vineyards in the far southern Itata Valley as well, among them the plot of Cinsaut vines that produce this light-bodied, graceful, peppery red.
2018 Rafael Tirado Laberinto Maule Valley Sauvignon Blanc ($20)
Used to simple Sauvignon? Taste this gorgeous wine from Rafael Tirado. It has layers of guava and candied grapefruit flavor, with a lasting, stony, savory depth (and yes, the vineyard is actually planted like a circular labyrinth).
2016 Concha Y Toro Marques De Casa Concha Merlot ($22)
Concha y Toro mostly makes wines from the well-known regions around Santiago, but this Merlot from the Maule Valley is a find: peppery and herbaceous up front, with sweet red-fruit notes and a touch of oak on the finish.
2016 Roberto Henríquez Rivera Del Notro Tinto ($29)
Bright cherry fruit and smoky notes define this evocative red from Roberto Henríquez. Low alcohol, low intervention, and 200-year-old País vines (honestly) in the Bío Bío Valley add up to something truly special.
2018 Viña Aquitania Sol De Sol Chardonnay ($35)
One of the best Chilean Chardonnays I’ve ever tasted, this wine could give a good Puligny-Montrachet a run for its money. The aroma recalls toasted corn, lemon blossoms, and hay, and the flavor melds lees-y savoriness and citrus notes seamlessly.