Chile’s 2021 harvest was unusual to say the least: more than 90% of the area under vine was struck by an abnormal weather phenomenon in the middle of summer, with almost unheard-of levels of rainfall in January. Only the northern and southern extremes were lucky enough to be left out. This was followed by a cool February that only served to exacerbate already frayed nerves and keep growers guessing. As it turned out, Bordeaux varieties fared rather well with far more favorable conditions in March producing very exciting Cabernet Sauvignons. This is an overview of a cool, rainy rollercoaster of a season, unlike any seen in recent memory.
Chilean wine producers are developing new styles, using grapes from vineyards planted in the far south of the country and the granite rich soils of the coastal mountain ridge known as the Cordillera de la Costa. Meanwhile, in Maipo, the Cabernet Sauvignons are growing ever more precise. This report provides an overview of these trends and what the changes mean for lovers of Chilean wine.
Chile, Argentina, featured
By the end of March 2020, almost every winery in Chile and Argentina had finished picking. Apart from a few small pockets, on both sides of the Andes the harvest was completed in record time. With ripening accelerated by a combination of climatic factors, and the looming threat of COVID-19 exerting pressure on work teams, we were presented with the unprecedented sight of bare vineyards at the end of March – generally not something you’d see until late April or early May.
This is a turbulent period in the history of Chile. The entire country is debating the prospect of a new constitution, which would represent an inflection point between one era and another. These changing times affect the wine industry as much as any other, since, like all cultural products, wine is a reflection of its political, social and economic context. The Chilean wine industry is also undergoing a transformation. But here, unlike the political situation, it’s nothing but good news. That was my first reflection after tasting over 700 wines on a two-week trip across the country...
After years of percolating beneath the surface of an ocean of corporate, albeit frequently well-made wines, Chile’s small-scale winemakers are slowly but steadily rising to the consciousness of wine lovers. At the same time, a number of the country's largest wineries are stepping up their own quality game, making these exciting vinous times for Chile, which for too long was spoken of more for its quality potential than for the actual merit of its wines.
I tasted more top-notch Chilean wines this year than ever before, and at all price points. From racy Sauvignon Blancs that have been catching the lion’s share of the wine trade’s attention to high-end Bordeaux- and Napa-inspired Cabernets and Cabernet-based blends to exciting new Pinot Noirs and Syrahs, there’s something of interest for every palate.
Slowly but surely, Chile has been gaining respect for producing more than just a handful of world-class wines
The two vintages that make up the bulk of the wines I tasted for our annual report on Chile's wines, 2011 and 2010, posed a number of challenges for the country's growers and winemakers--chiefly, how to make attractive wine from mostly underripe fruit
The growth and diversification of the Chilean wine industry continue apace
As in recent years it was Chiles sauvignon blancs that impressed me most in my annual tastings, especially at the lower price points, which is great news for consumers who might be looking for alternatives to increasingly pricey New Zealand versions