Wine Tasting in South America...
A review of the continent's top producers

Chile wine country
Chile Wine Country

It is hard to imagine life, or civilization for that matter, without wine. For thousand of years, since the times of the Roman Empire - perhaps deep into the Paleolithic period - it was part of the table. Naturally, what is now known as Old World wines was the beginning of it, as they are considered the birthplaces of wine.

The list includes countries like France, Spain, Italy, Germany, Portugal, Austria, Greece among several others. Personally, I'm fond of Spain's Rioja and Italy's Sardinia wines, but that only is a personal preference when talking about red wine, with all due respect to the famed France's Bordeaux wines.

In terms of New World wines - the actual name refers to countries colonized by Western Europe - Australia's Hunter valley, California's Napa valley, New Zealand and South Africas's regions of Stellenbosch, Paarl and Constantia are very well known and considered in this regard, but this is the time to talk about wine tasting in South America, where Argentina and Chile come as the biggest players in the continent, first and second respectively, followed by Brazil and Uruguay.

Acording to FAO - 2013 - Argentina ranks 6th in the world's top ten list of wine producers, while Chile stands in the 8th place. Furthermore, irrelevant of where you live, it's almost impossible to walk into any decent size wine store and not to find a rack of Argentinian and Chilean wines, from quality, good-value wines to top of the range.

Vale dos Vinhedos in the Serra Gaúcha of the State of Rio Grande do Sul is Brazil's wine region par excellence, particularly around the town of Bento Gonçalves. It accounts for about 90 percent of the country's fine wine production. It became the first Brazilian region to receive the Geographic Origin certification. Brazil is the third largest wine producer in the continent.

Uruguay is the fourth-largest producer. Its signature wines are that of red wines produced from Tannat grapes. Tannat is a red wine grape considered the country's icon grape, just as Chile has its Carmenere and Argentina its Malbec. Each of them produce an excellent variety of Cabernet Sauvignon, among others, so you are not short of options when it comes to wine tasting in South America.

Peru has a long stanting tradition in winemaking that goes back to the 1500s, following the Spanish conquest. Although relatively small, it is gaining international recognition, particularly over the last few years. Two major wine producers in the country are Santiago Queirolo and Ocucaje. Most vineyards are located on the central coast, around Pisco and Ica, where most of Peru's winemaking and distillation takes place

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Argentina's most important wine regions are located in the provinces of Mendoza -producing more than 60% of Argentine wine - San Juan, La Rioja, Salta, Catamarca and Río Negro. While the country is famous for Malbec, there are many different varieties of grapes cultivated in Argentina. The list includes Torrontes, Caberent Sauvignon, Bonarda, Pinot Noir, Syrah and Chardonnay, among others

Chile’s principal wine producing regions (valleys) are many, basically from Elqui Valley to Malleco Valley, spanning a distance of around 1,000 km between the each other. For a better understanding, the following list is a break down of the country's wine regions and their conforming valleys, from north to south...

Coquimbo Region

- Elqui Valley
- Limari Valley
- Choapa Valley

Aconcagua Region

- Aconcagua Valley
- Casablanca Valley
- San Antonio Valley

Central Valley Region

- Maipo Valley
- Cachapoal Valley
- Curico Valley
- Maule Valley

Southern Region

- Itata Valley
- Bio-Bio Valley
- Malleco Valley

Beyond Chile's signature Carménère wine, the variety of grapes cultivated in the country includes Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, among others. The country's wine history began with the arrival of Spanish conquerors, in the mid XVI century, when missionaries introduced the vines to produce wine for Catholic mass rituals.

One of the things that I admire the most regarding Chilean wines is their overall quality across the range, from the very modest to top vintages. You could be traveling in a remote corner of the country, away from mainstream tourism circuits, but you can be certain that you'll find a very drinkable table wine to go with dinner.

After all this, there is no coincidence at all that wine tours in South America are conducted in Argentina, Chile, Brazil and Uruguay. Enotourism or Wine tourism is a relatively new way of exploring the world. It refers to tourism whose purpose is or includes the consumption or purchase of wine, often at or near the source, including visits to wineries, tasting wines, vineyard walks, etc.

So if you worship Baco - the Roman God of Wine - you know where to head off to. Wine tasting in South America will put you in touch with some of the very best in the New World.

Bodega Irurtia. Uuguay
Bodega Irurtia. Uruguay


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