Bright cherry violet . . . Vanilla, red fruits. Well balanced and quaffable. Straightforward varietal flavors are not overly crowded by oak or tannic structure
La Playa Winery
In 1952, patriarch Søren Axelsen left his native Copenhagen to travel the world. Eventually, he settled in California to grow his own grapes. But he never forgot the remarkable growing regions he had seen in Chile, in particular Colchagua Valley, which showed such great potential to produce world-class wines.
By 1989, he had realized his dream, founding Viña La Playa alongside his sons Peter and Eric. Viña La Playa of Chile is a partnership between the Axelsens and two promient Chilean winemaking legends: the Sutil and Errázuriz families. The winery encompasses 597 acres of prime property in the Colchagua Valley, where its vineyards enjoy a unique microclimate that fosters the growth of premium wine grapes.
With near-perfect growing conditions, Colchagua Valley has been described as "The Next Napa" (Wine Enthusiast, March 2002) as "arguably Chile's premier opportunity for world-class wine production" (Wine Spectator, April 30, 2002), and as "2005 Wine Region of the Year," yeilding "some of the most compelling wines in the world" (Wine Enthusiast, 2005).
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Photo of the sun break following morning fog over the vineyards of Veramonte Winery (located in the Casablanca Valley)
Long and thin, Chile has a lot of land north to south. The wine region here is a series of districts based near Santiago. The vineyards are protected by the Pacific on the west and the Andes mountains on the east. This could help explain why the climate changes more from east to west than north to south – also why the country has remained phylloxera free. Quite a few wineries in Chile were founded by large French wine companies. Seeing the potential of the country, vineyards were bought and planted by these French folks and the results tell of a smart investment. Some of these wineries include: Los Vascos, Casa Lapostolle and Cousino Macul.
And while the inspiration may have been French, but the wines here are quite Chilean.
The main regions of Chile include Maipo (pronounced MY-poh), known for reds like Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere; Casablanca Valley, a region producing delicious Sauvignon Blanc, as well as other whites & some
reds; Colchaugua, an inland district creating amazing red wines from Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon, particularly in the Apalta sub-region; and Rapel Valley, settled right under Maipo and producing the same red varietals. A couple of smaller regions to watch include Limari and Elqui, two valleys further north, producing some delicious cool-climate Chardonnay and Bio Bio, an area further south, which is also focused on cool-climate varieties. Chilean wines are growing in exports and more consumers are enjoying the delicious values coming from the country. Red wines of the region, though they cannot be generalized, make the whole gamut of wine quality – quaffable to collectible. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot & Carmenere are the main players, though Syrah is also making a splash. Some of the best reds are blends of the above varieties. As for whites, Sauvignon Blanc is typically crisp, herbal and racy, while Chardonnay is richer in style with full-bodied texture and tropical fruit flavors.
Young, organically farmed Carmenère at Chile's De Martino estate vineyard
Chile & Argentina are the regions producing the most wine coming out of the continent. The wines from this area are good value with a distinctive taste. They create new world wines with old world character.
Most wine ranges from 10-16% alcohol by volume. Some varietals tend to have higher (for example Zinfandel and Cabernet Sauvignon) or lower alcohol levels (Pinot Noir and many white varietals), but there is always some variation from producer to producer. Some wine falls outside of this range, for instance Port weighs in closer to 20%, while Muscat and Riesling are usually a bit below 10%.
Wine Style Guide
Light & Crisp
Light to medium bodied wines that are high in acid and light to medium fruit. Typically no oak.
Fruity & Smooth
Light to medium bodied wines with lots of juicy fruit, typically medium acid and medium oak.
Rich & Creamy
Full bodied wines that have typically undergone malo-lactic fermentation and/or spent time in oak.