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Southwest of Santiago lies the Maipo Valley, arguably the most famous wine producing region in Chile and it is also one of the largest totaling over 10,000 hectares of area under vine. Though the Maipo Valley is not Chile’s oldest wine region, it is often referred to as the most traditional. Due to the areas proximity to Santiago, many of Chile’s oldest, largest, and most established wineries have found a home in the Maipo Valley including Concho y Toro, Cousino Macul, and Santa Rita.
In the Maipo Valley, Cabernet Sauvignon dominates vine plantings – accounting for more than 50% of the wines produced, Merlot accounts for 10%. Overall, the Maipo Valley is a predominately red wine region and has an 85/15 split of red to white wines.
The Maipo Valley covers a large area of Chile spanning from the east of Santiago to the west of the Pacific Ocean. Within this area there are three sections, Alto Maipo, Central Maipo, and Coastal Maipo. Each offers its own, unique style of wine, highlighting the diversity that can be found within one area.
Alto Maipo: The Cabernet Sauvignon from the Alto Maipo is particularly noteworthy as the region boasts the ideal viticultural setting. The region’s microclimate is continental, partially because of the region’s altitude, reaching heights of 1,300-2,600 feet above sea level, and also because of the amount of sun exposure. The Andes Mountains have a great affect on the vines grown in the Alto Maipo not only because of their elevation, but because before the morning sun can reach the vines it must first rise above the Argentinean side of the mountain range. This area is known for its large, alluvial river stones, which are traditionally known for producing exquisite wines, and make no exception here producing the country’s finest Cabernets. Winds sweeping off the Pacific Ocean add to the cool temperatures of the region, but these factors, in turn, create a bold, elegant style of Cabernet Sauvignon that is highly sought after.
Central Maipo: This region is one of Chile’s oldest winemaking areas, and was the first of the Maipo Valley to be settled. Cabernet Sauvignon dominates vine plantings in Central Maipo, but the region’s Carmenere wines are also emerging and have received high praise in recent years. Central Maipo is the warmest of the three areas and it sees less rainfall than the Alto Maipo and Pacific Maipo, drip irrigation is needed. Vineyards are often planted along the Maipo River, an area that is known for its rocky, alluvial soils that the noble varieties, such as Carmenere and Cabernet Sauvignon, historically enjoy.
Pacific Maipo: The Pacific Maipo is the youngest area of the Maipo Valley, and today there are still few vineyard plantings here. Grapes grown in this region benefit from the coastal influence of the Pacific Ocean and, here, we again find welcomed alluvial soils. Red wines from the Coastal Maipo have a refreshing, natural acidity from the influence of the Pacific Ocean. The vineyards in this area are often planted so that they are nestled between smaller, low-lying hills that rise between the Andes and the coast so that they are protected by the harsh winds from the ocean. Because of the region’s coastal influence, the Pacific Maipo is also the perfect place for experimentation with the country’s white varieties, most notably Sauvignon Blanc. One can expect to see increased exposure of the Pacific Maipo’s red and white varietals in the coming years.
Photos courtesy of www.mattwilson.cl for Wines of Chile– Description from Constance Chamberlain
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