Chile has often been the go-to for quality, budget wines but the country has moved on and is also producing some serious bottles for the dinner table, writes Terry Kirby
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Chile might be a southern hemisphere, Pacific-rim nation on the other side of the Andes to us, but ever since the Spanish conquistadors arrived in the 16th century, its winemaking traditions, blessed with a Mediterranean-type climate and cooling ocean breezes – to temper the higher temperatures – have been firmly rooted in those of Europe and, ironically, more allied to France than Spain.
The country also prospered from not being subject to the phylloxera louse, consequently boosting production when the blight devastated French vineyards. And since modern winemaking really took off in the late 1980s and early 1990s, Chile has grown to become one of the biggest wine exporters in the world, in fifth place behind Europe’s big three of Spain, France and Italy, and Australia. For many of us, perhaps similarly to Australian wines, its familiar and budget labels have been a staple of corner shop and supermarket shelves, with reassuring European varietals – such as cabernet sauvignon, sauvignon blanc, merlot and pinot noir – prominent on the labels. If you were looking for a decent quality, sub-£10 bottle, Chile was often the answer.
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