June 24, 2021
South America is home to a variety of different landscapes that depending on the country you visit sees changes in soil consistency and weather. This is why South America is known to have some of the most varied and flavourful wines. No longer do the wine regions of France, Spain or Italy hold the title for best wines.
In recent years, South America has become a popular destination for wine tourism with travellers from around the world coming to discover the different wines and the history of wine making in these countries.
Below are some of the regions best known for their grapes and wine which you will want to visit when you come to South America.
Argentina is known for producing its now famous Malbec, a red wine with hints of blackberries whose popularity saw a sharp increase in the last 20 years. Some people even consider Mendoza to be the wine capital of South America, which when you consider that Argentina produces almost 70% of the world’s Malbec is very much a worthy title. However Malbec is not the only wine that Argentina produces, they also make Chardonnay, Merlot and Cabernet amongst the most famous of the French wines. They also have their own specific varieties such as Bonarda, Torrontés and Tempranillo.
The grapes needed to produce the famous Malbec are located in between two mountains in the Andes. The town is known for its art deco buildings and a modern and contemporary art museum making it the perfect stopover on the way to the wineries.
Unlike most of the wines found in Latin America which were initially brought over by French merchants in the 17th and 18th century, Torrontés is a crop that is native to South America and the town of Cafayete, located in the province of Salta. The wine is a lesson in contradictions as it is sweet to the smell but tastes quite dry in the mouth.
There are three varieties of grapes grown here, the Torrontés Riojano, Torontés Sanjuanino and the Torrontés Mendocino which all wield wine under the label Torrontés though for the fine wine connoisseur they do have noticeable differences. Torrontés also has the particularity of being grown at the highest altitude of any wines in the world which might contribute to its strange compositions.
The landscapes around here is also renowned as the surrounding mountains are coloured red due to the rock formations. Visiting a winery here will lead to some spectacular pictures with these red mountains as a backdrop.
There are two main areas in Chile that produce wine. The first is the Maipo Valley, located in the South not far from Santiago and is the most famous of the two. It is also the most easily accessible one for travellers and takes a lot of inspiration from French wineries. The area produces mainly Cabernet Sauvignon
The second area is the Limari Valley, located this time in the north of Santiago near the Pacific ocean and the Atacama desert which offers a unique climate to grow vines. The grapes grown here are white and produce Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay. Before making wine, the grapes grown here were either eaten or used to make Pisco.
If you are looking for exclusivity and rarity then head to the Male Valley where they specialise in the making of the Carignan wine, one of the rarest wines made in Chile. The reason for this is due to the fact that it is a very difficult vine to grow and therefore it is kept to a much smaller production to allow for the care required to nurture it.
Cachapoal Valley, Chile
Chile is known for having some of the best Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot and these are popular exports by the country. However, they also produce the lesser known and very rare Carménère. The rarity of this wine is due to the fact that the vines from which it was taken in France were struck with a disease and completely disappeared in their native Bordeaux. Chile is now the biggest producer of Carménère followed by Italy.
Cachapoal Valley is the most famous of the places that grow this rare variety of 100% Carménère wine but you can also find it in the Colchagua Valley which is reputed to be Chile’s best wine region. The Colchagua Valley also has the emblematic Santa Cruz Vineyard where visitors can take a cable car to the top of Chamán Hill where you will witness a panoramic view of the surrounding vineyards.
Uruguay is the fourth largest producer of wine in South America and is known for its red wine with the Tannat variety being the most dominant. Montevideo produces half of all the wine from Uruguay and the wine region here stretches from the northern outskirts of Montevideo for almost 30km up to nearby Canelones. The area is known for having a rich clay soil that is similar to the ones found in France where most of the wines originate from. Here many of the wines are family-owned business and when you visit their wineries you will most often be welcomed by the owners themselves.
Serra Gaucha, Brazil
Brazil is also not particularly known for its wine production however due to a high number of Italian and German immigrants in the 19th century who brought with them their vines and savoir-faire it has grown into a popular wine destination. The region of Serra Gaucha is in particular known for its sparkling varieties of wine. The Espumante, which is the local version of the Italian Spumante is the most renowned of them all. The sparkling wines produced here are very fresh and flavourful due to the warm climate.
Cave Geisse is the most prominent of wineries in Brazil, it was created in 1979 by Mario Geisse who was hired by Moët & Chandon to oversee and manage their office in Brazil. He learned his craft working for them before setting up his own cave. They are now known to produce a sparkling rosé that is very famous in the area.
Tarija and Cinti Valley, Bolivia
The wine industry of Bolivia is a rising star in South America. For a long time the country has been known to produce more artisanal wine as well as their national drink singani which is a distilled grape-based spirit.
The Tannat variety is the most popular of wines made in Tarija as the dry climate and altitude are best suited to this thick-skinned grape. The vines here are exposed to much more sun then anywhere else which leads to the intense flavours found in the Tannat.
In the Cinti Valley, you will find a grape varietal by the name of Vischoqueña which is solely found here. It is said that this varietal was brought here in the 1800s by Spanish travellers and that some of the vines that produce them are just as old as that. These grapes are quite sweet and produce a wine similar to that of a Muscat. Some wineries are also starting to try their hands at creating rosés as the fruit here is very light and fresh which is ideal for a rosé.
South America offers so many different styles of wine and regions that we hope have incited you to visit the different wineries in each individual country. Wine tourism is a great way to witness a different way of living while learning about a different culture and its history.
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