Chile's wine laws are more similar to the US appellation system than to France's Appellation d'origine
contrôlée that most of Europe has based their wine laws on. Chile's system went into effect in 1995 and
established the boundaries of the countries wine regions and established regulations for wine labels.
There are no restrictions of grape varieties, viticulture practices or winemaking techniques. Wines are
required to have at least 75% of a grape variety if it’s to listed on the label as well as at least 75% from
the designated vintage year. To list a particular wine region, 75% is also the minimum requirement of
grapes that need to be from that region. Similar to the United States, the term Reserve has no legal
definition or meaning. (B. Julyan, Wikipedia, Wine-Searcher)
*For the EU market, these minimums are raised to 85% (B. Julyan)
Copaipo and Huasco Valley D.O Atacama
Jancis Robinson claims that no quality wine comes from here. B. Julyan says that it is all Pisco
production. Sotheby’s lists it as a wine growing region. This is the most northern viticulture area, in
Chile, found in any wine text.
Elqui Valley D.O. Coquimbo
Elqui Valley is a wine-growing region within Coquimbo, northern Chile. Were it not for the few wines
and the brandy (Pisco) production in the Atacama region, Elqui would be the most northerly of all
Chilean wine regions. At a latitude of 29 degrees south, Elqui's northern hemisphere equivalents are
Cairo, Egypt and central Baja California, Mexico.
Elqui, like the Limari Valley to the south, is the subject of some interest among Chilean winegrowers, as
they search for new terroirs with which to strengthen the country's wine portfolio.
Pedro Ximénez, Carmenere, Syrah, and Chardonnay are among the grapes varieties grown successfully
in Elqui, and even Sauvignon Blanc, which prefers cooler regions, is produced in this hot, dry climate.
Choapa Valley D.O. Coquimbo
The Choapa Valley is located at Chile’s narrowest point, where there is no distinction between the Andes
and the Coastal Mountains. This small valley consists of two sectors, Illapel and Salamanca. Neither have
wineries in place as yet, but vineyards planted on rocky piedmont soils are producing limited quantities
of high quality Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes with high acidity and low pH.
Pronunciation Guide: cho-AH-pa (Valley); ko-KIM-bo (D.O.)
Total Hectares planted: 136
Limari Valley D.O. Coquimbo
Limari Valley is a wine-growing region in the northern end of Chile's national vineyard, sitting at a
latitude of 30 degrees south. In the northern hemisphere, this latitude is occupied by Cairo, Egypt and
central Baja California, Mexico - needless to say, it is unusual to find fine wines being made this close to
Due to its low latitude, Limari Valley's landscapes and climate are very hot and dry - the region is only a
stone's throw from the Atacama - the driest desert in the world. Limari's vineyards have been
historically devoted to the production of table grapes, and grapes for distilling into 'Pisco' - the Chilean
eau de vie. In fact, less than one fifth of Limari's grapes go into making quality table wines.
The Limari River runs through the centre of the region, bringing meltwater from the Andean peaks to
the region's towns and fields. The Limari is regulated by a dam, just to the northwest of Ovalle, and it is
thanks to this regulated water that the region's winegrowers maintain such control over their growing
seasons, in an otherwise arid environment.
To the east of Limari is the Embalse de Paloma, a large artificial lake, around which much of the region's
viticulture is centered. It regulates the flow of three local rivers, as they make their way down from the
Andes, through the valleys, to the Pacific Ocean.
The limestone soil types which are found in Limari are rare in Chilean terroirs. It is the result of former
seabeds which have been raised, by tectonic activity, into the Andes, and gradually washed downstream
to the plains and valleys below - by glaciers and rivers. Chardonnay is the star of Limari, producing wines
with certain minerality to them thanks to cool climate and the limestone content in the soil. Syrah is
also successful here because of the climate and specific soil types, with savory styles coming from the
cooler, coastal vineyards, and fuller, more fruit-driven styles coming from the warmer sites in the east
France and Marlborough in New Zealand.
Such was the difference between Casablanca's climate, and that of the more southerly regions, that the
prestigious Casa Lapostolle chose Casablanca as the exclusive source for their Cuvee Alexandre
Chardonnay. The region is now growing a wide range of white grapes, notably aromatics varieties like
Viognier, Gewurztraminer and Riesling, and is at the heart of Chile's efforts to prove that it is able to
excel in more than just red varieties.
San Antonio Valley [1 major sub Region: Leyda Valley] D.O. Aconcagua
*Broken down into 3 areas: Leyda Valley, Rosario and Lo Abarca (B. Julyan)
San Antonio Valley is a small wine region in Chile, located to the west of the Chilean capital, Santiago. A
new addition to the Chilean national vineyard, the region stands out among Chilean wine regions as
being able to produce quality Pinot Noir, as well as internationally respected white wines, including
Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay.
Like Casablanca Valley, just to the north, the viticulture in San Antonio Valley is heavily influenced by
the effects of the Pacific Ocean. Cool morning mists and spring frosts are more associated with Napa
Valley and Bordeaux than they are with any Chilean region, but the Antarctic Humboldt Current, which
flows up the west coast of Chile brings exactly these conditions to San Antonio Valley. The valley is
located at 33 degrees south - much closer to the equator than any European vineyard - and viticulture is
possible there largely because of this oceanic influence. The longer ripening period and cooler daily
temperatures mean that the region can produce quality Pinot Noir and Chardonnay balanced in sugar
and acids, as well as aromatic white varieties.
The region is only small, when compared to the sprawling regions at the centre of Chilean wine growing.
Like the Aconcagua Valley, to the north-east, San Antonio Valley is home to a small number of
producers. In this case the producers are newcomers, and are specialists capitalizing on the unusual
terroir, rather than larger wineries focused on mass production. San Antonio's first commercial wines
were emerging as recently as the turn of the century.
Leyda Valley is a small sub-region of the San Antonio Valley wine region in Chile, just 55 miles (90km)
west of the Chilean capital Santiago. The valley is singled out as being able to produce cooler-climate
wine styles, thanks to the local topography and resulting climate, and for this reason has been granted
status as an independent appellation within the San Antonio Valley region.
10 miles (15km) east of the Pacific coast, Leyda Valley is strongly influenced by the cooling effects of the
Humboldt Current, which flows up the west coast of Chile from the Antarctic. The valley is located at 33
degrees south; much closer to the equator than any European vineyard - and the specific style of wines
it produces are largely the result of this oceanic influence. Leyda's Pinot Noir and Chardonnay are among
Chile's most respected.
The landscape in the Leyda Valley consists mostly of rolling hills, at an elevation of around 200m (600ft),
and the soils are largely clay and loam, over a granite base, with moderate drainage.
Maipo Valley [4 Sub Regions: Pirque, Puente Alto, Santiago, Talagante] D.O. Central Valley
*Broken into Alto Maipo, Central Maipo, Pacific Maipo
The Maipo Valley is a significant wine-producing region in Chile, surrounding the national capital
Santiago. It is considered the home of Chilean wine, as it was here that the first wines were produced in
the mid sixteenth century. Maipo is probably also the best known of Chilean wine regions, as it produces
a handful of the finest of the country's wines. Some of the most established and respected names in
Chilean wine are located in the Maipo Valley, for the simple reason that the original wineries were
located, for obvious logistical reasons, within close proximity of Santiago city.
The Maipo Valley is a complex, sprawling wine region, and while the majority of the region's big names
are located in the east of the region, near Santiago city, there are also extensive plantings to the south
and west, towards the coast. Three of Chile's oldest wineries are based in the Maipo Valley: Cousino
Macul (1856), Concha y Toro (1883) and Santa Rita (1880), and wines such as Almaviva, Don Melchor,
Domus Aurea and Vinedo Chadwick are among those which have lent Maipo its renown - created
through collaborations between Chilean wine icons and foreign names such as Mouton-Rothschild and
Being drier and warmer than its cooler, newly famous cousins to the north (Casablanca, Leyda, San
Antonio), Maipo is more suited to red grape varieties, and is firmly established as a producer of world-
class Cabernet Sauvignon. The wines and wineries named above are all underpinned by the quality that
this grape can attain in Maipo. Merlot and Chardonnay are widely planted here too, and plantings of
Carmenere, Chile's 'icon' grape are increasing year after year.
The rainfall in Maipo is very low, and the climate is both warm and dry, so the arrival of technological
advances in the 1980's brought an element of consistency to winegrowing and winemaking here. Drip
irrigation gives viticulturalists a weapon against extended dry spells, while stainless steel tanks and oak
barrels allow controlled fermentation and quality ageing respectively.
Pirque is a small wine-producing sub region in the Maipo Valley, Chile; Located just 2 miles (3km) to the
west of Puente Alto.
Puente Alto is a small wine-producing sub-region of the Maipo Valley, Chile. Located on the southern
fringes of Santiago city, Puente Alto sits within the historic wine-growing area around the Chilean
The Maipo River flows through Puente Alto, on its route from the Andean peaks to the Pacific Ocean,
into which it flows just near San Antonio. The soils of Puente Alto derive their alluvial makeup from the
Maipo, and their high stone content from their location at the foot of the Andes.
The eastwards growth of Santiago is prevented rather dramatically by the steep slopes of the lower
Andes Mountains, which rise from 600m (2000ft) to peaks of 3000m (9800ft) within just a few miles.
Puente Alto itself stands at an altitude of roughly 700 meters (2300ft), and it is this altitude, combined
with the presence of a bridge over the Maipo River, which gives the area its name, which means "High
Bridge" in Spanish.
Any description of Puente Alto as a wine-producing area must reference the great names Almaviva and
Don Melchor - the two wines which put the area on the viticulture map. Vinedo Chadwick is also based
in Puente Alto, and has cemented the region's prestige by winning various international competitons
and awards. The Berlin Tasting of 2004 pitched this Puente Alto wine against Chateaux Lafite, Latour and
Margaux, and Italian greats Sassicaia and Tiganello. The panel of thirty-six European judges voted
Vinedo Chadwick as the top wine, making history for Chile's wine industry and breaking the image of
Chile as only a producer only of 'good value Merlot'.
Santiago is an official wine region in Chile, although its name is used with increasingly rarity. The reason
for this is simple; Santiago is encompassed within the Maipo Valley, a name of ever-increasing prestige.
Talagante is a small wine-producing sub-region of the Maipo Valley in Chile. Located to the South West
of Santiago city, the small area is home to several established names in Chilean Wine. De Martino,
Tarapaca and Undurraga are located around the town of Talagante, from which the area derives its
Rapel Valley [2 Sub- Regions: Cachapoal Valley, Colchagua Valley] D.O. Central Valley
The Rapel Valley is a large wine-producing region in Chile, located to the south of Santiago, and named
after the Rapel River which runs through its heart. The region stretches from the Pacific coast in the
west to the slopes of the Andes 60 miles (100km) to the east, so it is not surprising that the landscapes
and climates are varied. Rainfall is generally low, and the region leans towards the drier, warmer end of
In recent years, the names of Rapel Valley's two official sub-regions, Colchagua Valley and Cachapoal
Valley have become more familiar than that of their parent as the Chilean wine industry drives towards
a commercially attractive image of regionality. Wines not covered by either of these two names are
often labeled simply 'Valle Central' - a broad stroke term referring generally to the entire 560 mile
(1000km) long area between Santiago and Puerto Montt. The Colchagua and Cachapoal Valleys are each
broken down into their own independent sub-regions, making the notion of a 'Rapel Valley' wine region
less and less salient.
The Rapel river is a confluence of the Tinguiririca and Cachapoal rivers, whose courses divide the valley
into its two sub-regions; Colchagua Valley in the south and Cachapoal Valley in the north. As is the case
for the majority of Chilean wine regions, the river is a vital resource Rapel Valley's wine production,
bringing fresh mineral-rich meltwater down from the upper Andes.
In general terms, Rapel Valley wines are produced predominantly from red varieties, as the dry, warm
climate suits Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere and Merlot. Malbec plantings are also on the increase,
presumably in an attempt to share the success enjoyed by Mendoza to the north-west across the Andes.
Cachapoal Valley is a central wine region in Chile, and forms the northern half of the Rapel Valley
region. The valley shares its name with the river flowing through its centre - from the Lago Rapel in the
west, to the town of Rancagua in the east, and the geography of Cachapoal Valley is such that its shape,
like its agriculture, is closley linked to the eponymous river. The eastern edge of the wide valley is
marked by the western slopes of the Andes, while to the north and north-west loom the 1500m (5000ft)
hills of the coastal ranges - in this case misleadingly named, as they are closer to the Andes than they are
to the coast.
Located between the more prestigious Maipo and Colchagua valleys to the north and south respectively,
Cachapoal is somewhat shaded from the limelight. However, several prestigious Rapel Valley wines are
blends of fruit from both Colchagua and Cachapoal vineyards, and some promising wineries are
establishing themselves there. The majority of noteworthy Cachapoal wineries and vineyards are
located towards the east of the region, where the slopes of the Andes begin to rise away from the
warmer valley floor.
The soils of Cachapoal are a mixture of sand, clay and slightly more fertile loam, which some of the
region's winemakers say is ideal for growing Chile's icon 'variety' Carmenere. There are parts of
Cachapoal which have less effective drainage, which, similarly, can be exploited for growing varieties
which prefer more humid soil types.
The Colchagua Valley is a wine-producing region in central Chile, constituting one half of the Rapel
Valley region. The Cachapoal Valley, to the north, makes up the other half.
Colchagua Valley is a name associated with several prestigious Chilean wines. Apalta, made famous by
Casa Lapostolle's Clos Apalta red blend and more recently by Montes' 'Folly' Syrah, is a sub-region of
Colchagua. Equally prestigious is the Los Vascos winery, co-owned by Santa Rita and the Barons de
Rothschild of Bordeaux. In fact, Colchagua is consistently producing wines of great quality, and is
receiving high praise. Some wine commentators are predicting a bright future for Colchagua.
The climate in Colchagua is a little cooler than that of its northerly cousin Maipo, but still maintains a
consistently Mediterranean climate. As with most areas of Chile, the Pacific Ocean offers a cooling
influence - a saving grace at latitude of 34 degrees south, which is closer to the equator than any
European vineyard. The degree of cooling provided by the ocean varies from east to west in the
Colchagua Valley, as the distribution of red and white varieties shows. As a general rule, white varieties
benefit from cooler climates, while red varieties capitalize on drier, warmer climates: the dominance of
Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Malbec and Merlot plantings in the warmer east is mirrored by that of
Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc in the ocean-cooled west.
The Tinguiririca River is a key feature in Colchagua, as it flows along the northern edge of the region, and
through the town on Santa Cruz, around which many wineries are based. The river brings clear
meltwater from the Andean peaks down to the valleys and vineyards below, transporting silts and clays
with it, creating ideal soils and terrains for viticulture.
*Curico Valley is listed as a sub-region, along with just Lontue Valley, of Rapel Valley in Sotheby’s.
Wine-Searcher, which goes by wineries claims, lists it as stated above.
Curico Valley [2 Sub-Regions: Lontue, Teno] D.O. Central Valley
Curico Valley is a wine-producing region in central Chile. It is divided into two sections: an eastern half,
located towards the slopes of the Andes, and a western half, closer to the Pacific Ocean. Both halves are
roughly 115 miles (185km) south of the Chilean capital Santiago, located at a latitude of 35 degrees
south - Curico shares this proximity to the equator with the southern tip of Spain.
The Curico Valley was the region chosen by Miguel Torres when he began his Chilean wine enterprises
in 1979, bringing with him from Spain some technological advances which had a significant impact on
the Chilean wine industry. In those days, Curico was considered to be a part of the Maule region, but
with the Chilean wine industry driving greater regionality, it is now widely recognized as a region in its
own right. The presence of several respected and well-established wineries in Curico almost certainly
supported the case for the separation.
Curico's climate is divided as clearly as its boundaries. The eastern portion of the region is cooler than
the western portion, as it benefits from breezes coming down from the slopes of the Andes. This differs
from regions further north in Chile, where the western ends of the valleys are generally cooler, being
influenced by the Pacific Ocean. In Curico however, the hills of the 'coastal ranges' dissipate the effect of
east-west air movements, leaving the western parts of Curico slightly warmer than the east. It may well
be for this reason that the major centers of production, and the established names of Curico Valley wine
(Echeverria, Montes, San Pedro, Torres and Valdivieso) are located around the eastern towns of Curico
While Curico's vineyards are planted with more varieties than any others in Chile, the dominant varieties
remain the same as they were when the region first arrived on the international wine map; Cabernet
Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. While the former is yet to produce a rival to Maipo's red wines, and the
latter does not produce the fresh, complex style found in Casablanca, Curico remains one of Chile's
workhorse regions with a consistent, reliable output.
Lontue is a wine producing sub-region of the Curico Valley, in the center of Chile. Centered around the
town of the same name, Lontue is well positioned logistically, as Ruta 5 (Chile's section of the Pan-
American Highway) runs through the town, leading directly to Santiago through the Cachapoal and
Maipo Valleys. The town of Curico is situated just a few miles north of Lontue, and together these towns
form the epicenter of Curico's winemaking area.
Located in the southern and eastern portion of the Curico Valley, where the Lontue River (it is not
unusual for Chilean wine regions to share their name with a town, a valley and a river) flows down from
the nearby Andes, Lontue is cooler than the western areas of the Curico Valley. The river is an important
resource to the region, and neatly divides Curico into two - the area to the north being the Teno region.
The long-established and well-reputed brands of Echeverria and Valdivieso are based in Lontue, with the
equally respected San Pedro and Miguel Torres wineries adding to the region's panache, just outside the
Lontue's wines benefit from the influences of several different soil types in the area, combining
limestone and volcanic rock with alluvial clay and sand. The presence of limestone here is unusual for
Chile, and results from former seabed’s having been forced up with the formation of the Andes (which
also explains the presence of the volcanic element), and gradually filtered back down to the valleys via
Teno is a small wine-producing sub-region of central Chile, occupying the northern half of the Curico
Valley. The region is defined by the course of the River Teno, which brings valuable meltwater down
from the slopes of the Andes. The River Teno also gives its name to the main town of the region, where
some smaller wineries are based - it is not unusual for Chilean wine regions to share their name with a
town, a valley and a river.
With the spread of Teno's vineyards creeping southwards towards the town of Curico and the
neighboring Lontue wine region, few wines are considered to be the name Teno wines specifically.
Teno's wines benefit from the influences of several different soil types in the area, combining limestone
and volcanic rock with alluvial clay and sand. The presence of limestone here is unusual for Chile, and
results from former seabeds having been forced up with the formation of the Andes (which also explains
the presence of the volcanic element), and gradually filtered back down to the valleys via meltwater
*Sotheby’s lists Lontue and Claro Valley’s as sub-regions of Maule Valley
Maule Valley D.O. Central Valley
*Chile’s largest wine region (B. Julyan)
The Maule Valley is a wine-producing region in the centre of Chile. The region is the largest of Chilean
wine regions, despite the separation and independence of its former sub region, Curico - the result of
the Chilean wine industry's drive towards greater regional definition. Like Curico to the north, and to a
greater extent, Maule Valley is a workhorse of the Chilean wine industry, producing large quantities of
good value wine, but with little to rival the prestige of Maipo or Colchagua. Also, with increasing
attention on the cool-climate wines emerging from regions like Bio Bio, just to the south, Maule has
little with which to make its mark on modern wine trends.
Located towards the southern end of Chile's winegrowing areas, Maule is slightly cooler than its
northerly cousins, and has much higher annual rainfall - most of it during the winter months. The centre
of Maule's wine-growing area is 180 miles (290km) south of Santiago, at a latitude of 35 degrees south,
although the region as a whole spans about 60 miles (100km) north to south.
As with so many Chilean wine regions, Cabernet Sauvignon retains its long-standing crown as the most
planted variety. Nearly a third of Maule's vineyards are planted with this variety, which so strongly
underpins the success of Chile's wine industry. Carmenere and Merlot also contribute significantly to
Maule's red wines, with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc making up the majority of the white wine
Itata Valley D.O. Souther Region (del Sur)
The Itata Valley is a wine region in the southern third of Chile's long, thin, wine-producing area.
Previously considered to be part of the Bio Bio Valley region to the south, Itata Valley is increasingly
being recognized as a region in its own right. This is largely due to the Chilean wine industry's drive
*The Atacama region, located north of D.O. Coquimbo has no sub-regions with D.O. status
applications at this time; it is mainly producing Pisco.
Atacama, within the Atacama region (III administrative region); within it are two subregions, the Copiapó Valley and
the Huasco Valley, both of which are coterminous with the provinces of the same names. The region is known
primarily for its Pisco production. Atacama is also an important source of table grapes. (Wikipedia)
*Marga Marga Valley is listed in Sotheby’s as a region within the ‘Coastal Viticultural Region’
(along with Aconccagua Valley, Casablanca Valley and San Antonio Valley). No mention of it in
B. Julyan’s book.
*Vineyards are known to be located in Osorno, which is much farther south than Malleco Valley.
Osorno falls into the Los Lagos region (Lake District). (Jancis Robinson)
*Nematodes are Chile’s largest problem regarding viticulture. (Jancis Robinson)
Extensive Google’ing has produced this list:
Atacama Viticultural Region
Copiapo Valley, Huasco Valley
Central Valley Viticultural Region
Curico Valley, Maipo Valley, (including Santiago, Talagante, Pirque, Puente Alto, Isla de Maipo, Buin)
(Claro Valley, Lontue Valley, Talca, San Clemente, San Javier, Parral, Linares, Cauquenes), Rapel Valley (Colchagua
Valley, Cachapoal Valley), Curico Valley (including Teno, Lontue)
Coastal Viticultural Region
Aconcagua Valley, Casablanca Valley, Marga Marga Valley, San Antonio Valley (Leyda Valley)
Coquimbo Viticultural Region
Elqui Valley, Limari Valley, Choapa Valley
Southern Viticultural Region
Itata Valley, Bio Bio Valley, Malleco Valley
Sales and Service for the Wine Professional by B. Julyan
Sotheby’s Wine Encyclopedia
World Atlas of Wine by Jancis Robinson and Hugh Johnson
Wine by Andre Dominé