Place of Gold: VIK is a must when in Chile; an out of this world experience!
Chile: west coast wines, South American style
Chile reaps the benefits of its astonishing length, stretching from the Andes to the Antarctic, in a fantastic diversity of wines. Grape varieties from around the world—Sauvignon Blanc to Pinot Noir—all flourish here.
Not the least of Chile’s many charms is its unusual shape and topography: The country is some 2,670 miles (4,300km) long, but at no point is it wider than 220 miles (355km), while the average width is 112 miles (180km) and the narrowest point just 40 miles (65km) across. Bounded by the Pacific to the west and the Andes to the east and north, it’s a skinny streak that runs from one of the world’s driest deserts (the Atacama) in the north to within touching distance of Antarctica in the south and through all the changes in climate, flora, and fauna that a journey spanning 38 degrees of latitude implies.
This geographical diversity attracts a correspondingly wide range of tourists and travelers. Until relatively recently, however, one kind of visitor—those drawn to the country by an interest in Chile’s rapidly evolving wine culture—would have found themselves ushered toward only a very small slice of this narrow strip. In part because of its proximity to the capital, Santiago, and in part because of its historic position as the home of Chile’s best, or certainly its most famous, red wines, the Maipo Valley was by far the best prepared of all the Chilean wine regions for welcoming visitors.
But as Chile’s wine industry has developed over the past two decades, so the options for wine tourism have blossomed. In the various valleys that make up the traditional production zone of the Central Valley—Colchagua, Curicó, and Maule, as well as Maipo—producers have grouped together to form wine routes with tasting rooms and cellar-door sales. But as the industry has expanded into new sites toward the coast (Casablanca, San Antonio, and Leyda), to the far north (Limarí, Elqui), and farther south (Bío-Bío, Itata, Malleco), so new areas of exploration have opened up for the intrepid wine tourist.
A capital beginning
For all that the horizons of the Chilean wine tourist have broadened, any vinous visit to Chile would still begin in Santiago—and not just because it’s the location of the country’s main international airport and its most important transport hub. With more than one third of Chile’s 18 million inhabitants living in the city and the surrounding metropolitan area, it’s no surprise that it also has by far the biggest concentration of the country’s best restaurants, wine bars, and wine merchants.
Indeed, over the past decade, the city has emerged as one of the gastronomic centers of South America, with a flourishing food scene that seems finally to have left the stuffy privations of the Pinochet era behind. In chef Rodolfo Guzmán’s much-admired Boragó, in the trendy boho district of Vitacura (ranked 38 in San Pellegrino’s World’s 50 Best Restaurants list), unusual indigenous ingredients, many of them foraged, are at the heart of a distinctive modern Chilean cuisine that has provided a model for likeminded chefs such as Karl Schmidt at the casual bistro 99 in Providencía and the more French-inspired Carolina Bazan at Ambrosía, also in Vitacura.
For the wine-minded diner, the wine lists of these new-wave restaurants focuses on Chile’s emerging small-producer scene: natural, biodynamic, and organic wines. These are well represented, too, alongside wide choices from the grandees of Chilean wine and a variety of small-plate dishes, at Barrica 94, an informal wine bar in the student and artist’s quarter of Bellavista, which vies with Bocanaríz in the historic center for the most extensive by-the-glass selections in Santiago. This is a good place to start an in-situ exploration of Chile’s wine scene, as are wine merchants such as El Mundo del Vino (www.elmundodelvino.cl; various locations in Santiago) and the boutique based in the fine-arts complex Centro Gabriel Mistral (www.gam.cl).
Maipo and Aconcagua
One doesn’t have to travel very far from central Santiago to find oneself in the heart of Chilean wine country. Indeed, the atmospheric cellars of Viña Santa Carolina (www.santacarolina.com), magnificently restored after the 2010 earthquake, are very much within the city limits (Metro Rodrigo de Araya), while Cousiño Macul (www.cousinomacul.com), the oldest Chilean winery, with a history dating back to the 16th century, is also accessible via metro (Quilin station) followed either by a half-hour journey on foot or a short taxi journey. Both wineries offer a range of comprehensive tours and tastings.
Also a short journey from central Santiago by metro (in this instance to Las Mercedes), followed by a short taxi ride, is the headquarters of Chile’s (indeed, Latin America’s) largest winery, Concha y Toro. Based around a gracious traditional house (the summer residence of the Concha y Toro family in the late 19th century), visits include a tour of the park, gardens, estate house, and the 100-year-old cellars, plus a walk around a grape-variety “garden” with 27 different varieties and the company’s Pirque vineyard, before concluding with a tasting.
Another historic Maipo winery, Viña Santa Rita, offers one of the best wine-tourism experiences in Chile at its base in Buin, 45 minutes south of Santiago. Among the attractions is a stunning, discreet boutique hotel based in the historic estate house. Built in the 18th century and surrounded by lush, mature gardens, it is listed as one of the National Monuments of Chile and was converted into an atmospheric and very comfortable 16-room hotel in 1996. The complex also features a modern museum housing Santa Rita owner Ricardo Claro’s peerless collection of 1,800 pieces of pre-Colombian art and a fine traditional restaurant, Doña Paula, housed in another National Monument of Chile. A range of wine tours and tastings taking in the Santa Rita cellars and vineyards, and with options to take bikes or a horse and cart into the vineyards, is available (www.santarita.com).
Viña Errázuriz also has interests in the Maipo Valley, in the shape of its Viñedo Chadwick vineyard. However, visits to this celebrated family producer are, like the company’s wine production, conducted in the valley, where it has the majority of its production—Aconcagua—which is a drive of roughly 90 minutes north of Santiago. The company’s impressive visitor center in Panquehue houses an excellent restaurant and wine shop and offers a range of tours through the vineyards and underground cellars, with options for wine-and-food pairings over lunch (www.errazuriz.com).
Valparaíso and the Casablanca Valley
Although it is perfectly possible to take a day trip to the cooler-climate vineyards of Casablanca from Santiago, many visitors prefer to base themselves in the UNESCO World Heritage coastal city of Valparaíso or its seaside resort neighbor, Viña del Mar. Reminiscent of San Francisco, with its steep streets lined with colorful 19th-century wooden houses and slightly rickety, bohemian feel, Valparaíso is a lively city with many restaurants to tempt the wine-loving diner. Among those with the best wine lists are the seafront seafood specialist Portofino (www.portofino.cl) and, high on a hill, Espiritu Santo, where acclaimed chef Manual Subercaseaux specializes in local, seasonal ingredients and fine Chilean coastal wines (www.hosteriaespiritusanto.cl).
Another option would be a base in the Casablanca Valley itself. One of the region’s most exciting wineries, the organic and biodynamic estate Viña Matetic has an excellent eight-room hotel, La Casona, at its base in the southern part of the valley. The hotel has its own private chef, but the Matetic restaurant, Equilibrio, is also highly recommended to both hotel guests and day visitors to the winery, where other attractions include trekking, horse-riding, and biking through the vineyards, and where any tour includes a comprehensive explanation of biodynamic and organic winemaking (www.matetic.com).
Another highlight of the 13 wineries in the well-organized Casablanca Ruta del Vino (www.rutadelvinodecasablanca.cl) is Casas del Bosque (www.casasdelbosque.cl), which has one of Chile’s best winery restaurants, Tanino, and offers bike rides and trekking up to a point with panoramic views of the surrounding vineyards, with or without picnic accompaniment.
The Colchagua Valley
With a concentration of wineries specializing in voluminous red wines, the Colchagua Valley, around 125 miles (200km) south of Santiago, is another popular site that is just about within reach of a day trip from the capital but with facilities to support an extended stay. One of the best hotels in the region is the Hotel Santa Cruz in the center of the eponymous small town (www.hotelsantacruzplaza.cl). It offers guided tours of the region, including a cable-car ride over its affiliated winery in the Lolol Valley subdistrict, where an observatory gives visitors the chance to stargaze in Chile’s famously clear night skies. The hotel also plays host to one of Chile’s best museums, with a collection of artifacts second only to Santiago’s Natural History Museum in Chile, covering more than 400 million years of history.
Another fine hotel in this region is the work of one of its most respected producers, Casa Lapostolle. In the heart of the Apalta subregion, the Lapostolle Residence is an exclusive retreat offering four luxurious rooms with private terraces overlooking vineyards and mountains. The winery itself, a spectacular, futuristic Bond villain’s lair of a construction set into the hills, can be visited by appointment, with a tour that includes a tasting.
Some of the wineries in Colchagua’s Ruta del Vino (www.rutadelvino.cl) offer tours with lunch or a picnic: Viu Manent has one of the best restaurants in the region, Rayuela Bar & Grill, while the winery offers food and wine “studios” and bike and horse-riding vineyard tours.
North and south
In the more recently developed Chilean regions—far-flung destinations to the north of the country that are beyond the scope of day-trippers from Santiago or Valparaíso—you’ll need to make an appointment if you wish to add a wine visit to your itinerary. Two of the more spectacular wineries welcoming visitors are Viña Falernia in the spectacular northerly Elquí Valley and Viña Tabalí in the Limarí Valley, just inland from the delightful seaside resort of La Serena, a few hours north of Santiago (email@example.com). It’s well worth consulting the websites of the various Rutas del Vino for guided tours and participating wineries in other traditional winemaking valleys to the south of the country, such as the Curico (www.rutadelvinocurico.cl) and the Maule (www.valledelmaule.cl).
Place of Gold: VIK is a must when in Chile; an out of this world experience!
In a magnificent setting, tucked among the vines into the hills of Apalta, Lapostolle Residence offers four luxury rooms with private terraces.
Apalta km 4, Santa Cruz | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.en.lapostolle.com/lapostolle-residence/residence/
Profoundly peaceful colonial style boutique hotel complete with polo field run by Colchagua’s Casa Silva winery; fine traditional restaurant and winery visits are all on hand.
San Fernando, O’Higgins Region | +56 7 22 71 74 91 | email@example.com | www.casasila.cl/hotel
At the heart of Viña Santa Rita’s headquarters, a beautiful historic 18th-century house sensitively transformed into a peaceful haven amid gorgeous mature gardens.
Av Padre Hurtado 0695, Alto Jahuel, Chile | +56 2 23 62 25 20 | www.santarita.com/international/casa-real-hotel
Stylish, small-scale, intimate guesthouse with sensitive, wine-inspired design and plenty of wine-based activities in the heart of traditional Chilean wine country in the Maule Valley.
Camino a Constitución, km 20, San Javier, Maule Valley | Daniela@taboko.cl | www.tabonko.cl
Charming family-run hotel with 19 rooms, slap bang in the middle of a vineyard in the Colchagua Valley and with good food available from the neighboring Vino Bello restaurant.
Los Boldos, Santa Cruz, VI Región, 3130366 | +56 7 22 82 12 | 84 firstname.lastname@example.org | www.terravina.cl
Spectacular views of the Andes, forests, and vines through the wall-to-ceiling widows in every room in this high-spec, super-luxury “avant garde” retreat in the Cachapoal.
Hacienda Vik, Millahue, San Vicente de Tagua, Tagua, VI Región | +56 9 56 68 48 53 | www.vikhotels.com
Elegant, small-scale boutique hotel with fabulous views over Valparaíso to the Pacific—a great base for exploring Chile’s coastal-influenced vineyards in Casablanca, Leyda, and San Antonio.
Higuera 133, Cerro Alegre, Valparaíso, Región de Valparaíso | +56 3 22 49 79 00 | email@example.com www.casahigueras.cl
Superb luxury hotel in the capital from a company that—as the name suggests—specializes in an individualistic but supremely comfortable approach to hospitality.
Merced 294, Santiago, Región Metropolitana | +56 2 23 06 88 20 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.thesingular.com
Rodolfo Guzmán’s innovative mix of unusual Chilean ingredients and skill, backed by a creative, thoughtful wine list, is one of the best restaurants in the world.
Nueva Costanera 3467, Vitacura, Región Metropolitana | +56 2 29 53 88 93 | email@example.com | www.borago.cl
More than 400 Chilean wines are on offer at this favorite Santiago wine bar, many by the glass, all served with modern Mediterranean and Chilean dishes in tapas style.
José Victorino Lastarria 276, Santiago, Región Metropolitana | +56 2 26 38 98 93 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.bocanariz.cl
For more restaurants with award-winning wine lists click here.
Within easy reach of Santiago, the largest producer in South America has plenty of experience in showing visitors a good time around its 100-year-old cellars in Pirque.
Virginia Subercaseaux 210, Pirque | +56 2 24 76 56 80 / 24 76 53 34 / 24 76 52 69 | email@example.com | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.conchaytoro.com
History and cutting-edge modernity are seamlessly blended with superb facilities and beautiful surroundings at the family firm’s pristine headquarters in Panquehue in the Aconcagua Valley.
E-639 18, Panquehue, Región de Valparaíso | +56 3 42 59 01 39 email@example.com | www.errazuriz.com
The project of Chile’s biodynamic guru Alvaro Espinoza is a homespun affair in the Maipo, with a wonderfully atmospheric bed-and-breakfast and fascinating visits for those who book in advance.
Camino Padre Hurtado 68, Paine | +56 2 28 21 42 24 | firstname.lastname@example.org | email@example.com | www.antiyal.com
One of the stars of new-wave Chile has a supremely stylish winery with one-hour tours and tastings available by appointment in the starkly beautiful scenery of the Limarí Valley north of Santiago.
Av Las Condes 9460, of 801, Las Condes, Santiago | +56 2 24 77 55 35 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.tabali.com
Maria Luz Marín and family were pioneers in the San Antonio Valley. Today the winery offers tastings, a wine bar, vineyard visits, and a pleasant bed-and-breakfast in the vines.
Camino Lo Abarca s/n, Lo Abarca, Cartagena, V Región | +56 9 87 77 67 86/+56 2 23 34 29 86 email@example.com | www.casamarin.cl
Set in the hippie and stargazer’s paradise of the Elquí Valley, this Italian-owned producer in what was once exclusively pisco county is well worth a visit. However, you’ll need to book in advance for a weekend tour.
Ruta 41, km 52, Cruce Gualliguaica, Vicuña | +56 3 22 74 12 34/ +56 9 93 45 91 14 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.falernia.com
The Morandé family’s latest project in Casablanca deals in artisan wines, and a visit to the winery—including a picnic or brunch if desired—offers something a little different from the Chilean norm.
F-850 1380, Casablanca, Región de Valparaíso | +56 3 22 74 12 34/+56 9 93 45 91 14 email@example.com | www.bodegasre.cl
A National Monument and a genuinely urban winery, thanks to the 20th-century growth of Santiago, Viña Santa Carolina’s historic headquarters offers a variety of tours and tastings.
Calle Til Til 2228 Macul, Santiago, Región Metropolitana | +56 2 24 50 31 37 | firstname.lastname@example.org | www.santacarolina.cl
One of Chile’s best wineries also offers a stylish hotel and restaurant among the biodynamic vines, with a variety of tours and tastings in the southern Casablanca Valley.
Fundo El Rosario Lagunillas, Casablanca | +56 2 26 11 15 01 | www.matetic.com
This respected Colchagua Valley producer takes wine tourism seriously with an excellent restaurant, food-and-wine-matching lessons, and bike and horse- riding tours.
Carretera del Vino, km 37, Santa Cruz, Colchagua, VI Región | +56 7 22 85 83 50 | email@example.com | www.viumanent.cl