In today’s post we travel to a very specific region of the beautiful Chile to learn and get to know a little bit more of its wines, its richness, grapes and weather. It is the Limarí Valley and more concretely the Coquimbo region.
Let’s start by providing some geographical data, emphasizing that Chile is the largest and narrowest country in the world and that it is literally trapped between the Andes mountain range and the Pacific Ocean. In order to have an idea of its dimensions, it would be as narrow as our adjacent country Portugal and as large as if we travelled from Oslo to the Canary Islands.
With these references in mind, one can now start to guess the variety of climates to be found in this country, starting with the arid Atacama Desert (in the North) till Cabo de Hornos (in the South) and going from dryer climates to damper ones.
In order to comprehend how it is possible to obtain such remarkable wines at a world-wide scale, it is first necessary to understand the origins. Let’s go!
How did the wine arrive in Chile?
We have to go back to the XVI century to discover that the vineyard arrived in Chile through the North, coming from Peru.
Around the year 1524, Hernán Cortés ordered the plantation of a thousand Spanish vineyards per hundred aboriginals, in order to achieve a quick hybridization in the new lands.
With these new vineyards, Chile started to make wine that would accomplish fame around the XIX century, in tandem with other European areas such as La Rioja, both influenced by the same techniques incorporated in Bordeaux.
The first settlement of the conquerors occurred in the La Serena region and from here the grape got spread to the South of Chile.
Now during several years, the only cultivated area was the Central Valley but as the years passed by (and more recently) the coastal areas are also being explored. Nowadays one can’t refer to the country as North or South but rather West or East, with their different soils and climate conditions; soils that are to determine the different varieties of grapes and harvest seasons.
This is the biggest richness of the country.
In this occasion we are to focus on the Limarí Valley. In this area you can find edible grapes, grapes for the preparation of the typical “Pisco” and naturally for the preparation of a wide range of wines.
Let’s approach the Coquimbo region, 400km North of Santiago de Chile, very close to La Serena. This area is also very close to the Atacama Desert, the place with less rain in the world… and you may question: but how come there are grape crops?
Well, the water proceeding from the mountain melting and the Humboldt Stream are to blame. Thanks to them, the proliferation of the olive trees and olive oils that have obtained international awards, as well as the other types of crops, vineyards included.
A quick curiosity, in some wineries of the region, the harvest starts in January and finishes end of May, therefore lasting 5-6 months. This information by itself explains the complexity of the weather and geographical conditions of the Limarí Valley.
To understand the varieties of grape that can be found, we should in turn understand the small distance that goes from the Pacific to the Andes region and (once again the influence of the desert and the cold stream proceeding from the ocean) which determines the type of soil, humidity, grape variety, etc.
The soils and the grapes
The soils to be found in this area are soils with little organic material (less than 1%) and soils with a high component of calcium carbonate, therefore the energy of the plant is concentrated in the ripening phase and not the growth itself.
If we analyze the types of grapes, we conclude that there is a wide variety and range, from Sauvignon Blanc, which is commonly produced in fresher climates, Viogner in warm weather and lastly Chardonnay, in white grape. On the other hand we have, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère, Syrah, Malbec and Sangiovese in red grapes.
Some of the wineries to be found in the Coquimbo region are: Tamaya, Maycas de Limarí or Viña Ocho Tierras, among others.
With this tasting we finish our adventure through Chile. We leave highly satisfied and hoping that you have learnt, enjoyed, and understood a little bit more about this wonderful country.