Chile is synonymous with its wine and there are a variety of renowned vineyards that you can visit, set in glorious Andean scenery.

Although it is a relatively new player on the world stage, Chile has gained a reputation as one of the leading lights of the global wine industry. Vineyards are popping up all over the country, from the arid Atacama in the north, all the way down to glacial Patagonia in the south and thus producing a huge diversity of wines.

By far the great concentration of vineyards, and from where the best wine is produced, is in the Central Valley, close to Santiago. Of these, the most well known (and arguably the best) is the Maipo Valley, just outside the capital. The region, sometimes known as the Bordeaux of South America, runs from the Pacific coast across the width of the country to the foothills of the Andes, which serve to separate it from the Mendoza region in neighbouring Argentina. The warm sunshine during the day produces powerful grapes, which are then cooled at night as the temperatures drop, slowing down the ripening process and prolonging the season. These conditions enable the Maipo Valley to produce its famous Cabernet Sauvignon, one of the most popular wines from Latin America.

To the west of Santiago is the Casablanca Valley, synonymous with Sauvignon Blancs, thanks to refreshing coastal breezes, foggy mornings and higher rainfall. 60 miles north of the capital is the Aconcagua Valley, where generally smaller wineries produce world class wines, in the shadow of the highest mountain outside of Asia. Mount Aconcagua sits just over the border in the Argentine Andes and its melted snow provides vital irrigation for an extremely dry and arid region. Further south are the dramatic landscapes and sun-kissed vineyards of the Colchagua Valley. This emerging region is gaining ground on the Maipo Valley in the battle to be Chile's most acclaimed and gain the attention of the country's wine tourists who, as you can see, are spoilt for choice.

Both Aconcagua and Colchagua valleys also specialise in Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as Syrah and Carmenère, the latter of which was inadvertently resurrected by Chile, having been all but wiped out by a 19th century plague in France. It was presumed extinct, however cuttings of the grape had already been imported by Chilean wineries, who took it for Merlot and it wasn't until some 150 years later that it was finally recognised as a distinct grape. Such confusion is thought to have given the Chilean Merlot its distinctive taste, whilst the country is now the biggest producer of Carmenère wines in the world.

The Maipo, Casablanca and Aconcagua regions can all be visited on excursions out of the capital, whilst you can explore the Colchagua Valley during a two night stay in the picturesque town of Santa Cruz.

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