The Wine Valleys of Chile, Wine Tasting, Tours and Accommodation


One of the outstanding characteristics of Chilean wine is that its original vines were brought to Chile from Europe prior to the onset of the phylloxera disease that wiped out most European vineyards in the late 1800’s.

Consequently, the Chilean vines never suffered from the phylloxera disease and remained “pure” for quite some time. European, and other vines only survived when they were grafted with foreign vines that were resistant to the disease, but this resulted in a new lineage of vine.

Chile has become renown for producing some excellent varietal wines of late and this is down to the fact that the country possesses the right combination of “terroir” (the right mix of soil, moisture, and temperature for optimum wine-grape production). The central sector of the country (the Central Valley), where most of the wine-producing valleys are located, enjoys (in the summer months December to March) a hot Mediterranean climate that bathes grapes in copious amounts of sunshine.

However, the high Andes Mountains on the east provide natural irrigation from summer snow melt as well as a supply of cool air that fills the lower valleys early morning and late evening. In addition, the cool air influence of the Pacific Ocean from the west provides just the right amount of cool breeze to come in and cool the air in the valleys too. The combination of these two elements enables the grapes to mature perfectly during the day, but the process is then slowed during the night, and this prolongs the maturation process overall as well as allows the vines to produce more flavor-concentrated berries (grapes).
There are now 17 official wine-designated valleys throughout Chile located in the north around Copiapo, down to the south around Osorno. This is a vertical distance of approximately 1,727km. Incredibly the town of Copiapo is close to the Tropic of Capricorn. Then, about 800km further south begins the Chilean Central Valley followed further south by the colder and wetter Chilean Lake Region. Therefore, there is a varied and dramatic climatic change between the Chilean wine valleys located in the north compared to those located in the south. This means that there is a completely different set of climatic circumstances in these valleys that has a direct influence on which grapes are best suited to grow in each region, and further influenced by the “terroir” in each valley. In turn, this dictates which wines are finally created from each wine-producing valley.

Wine Valleys of Chile

The official wine valleys of Chile are (running north to south):
Copiapo / Huasco / Elqui / Limari / Choapa / Aconcagua / Casablanca / San Antonio / Maipo / Cachapoal / Colchagua / Curico / Maule / Itata / Bio Bio / Cautin / Osorno

Within the above valleys are also “sub valleys” that are recognised as separate wine-growing areas within the overall main valley.

However, for the visitor the key wine valleys that can be easily accessed are the ones closest to Santiago, in the main Central Valley sector of Chile. Therefore, what we aim to do here is to focus on the wine valleys near to Santiago that not only offer some of the best wines, but are accessible for day tours, and those that offer great wine hotels for a few nights stay. Each of these wine valleys is geographically aligned in a west to east formation in a more-or-less horizontal layout and are:

Casablanca (with San Antonio sub valley)
Mendoza (Argentina)
We will also include Mendoza, in Argentina because it is “just over the Andes” from Santiago.

Due the proximity to Santiago these valleys are accessible with self-drive, but we can also arrange private transfers that enable the otherwise self-drive, driver, to enjoy the wine tasting.

NOTE: ExperienceChile.Org is also offering private wine tours accompanied by our English-speaking wine expert. Just let us know how many people and the dates.

However, we also have some wine tours, again guided by our wine expert, on fixed dates whereupon anyone can join. Please refer to our wine itineraries.

ExperienceChile.Org offers overnight stays at some of the best wine hotels in the country that include a tour of the wine-making facilities, a tasting of the wines (with educational explanation), accommodation, food and other activities too, all set in wonderful, scenic locations.

We would suggest, however, that you let us incorporate a small wine itinerary into the rest of your overall itinerary.

New World Wines

Chile is a great New-World wine producer offering some of the best varietal wines in the market. To the unaccustomed, the New World is the territory outside of Europe (the area producing “old world” wines) and a varietal wine is a wine made from one grape variety, such as Sauvignon Blanc, Carmenere, Merlot, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec and so on, as opposed to the carefully blended wines that come from, for example, Bordeaux in France.

There are certain wine areas in the New Word countries that have a reputation for producing the “best” varietal wine in each category. For example, Mendoza, in Argentina, produces excellent Malbec; New Zealand’s Marlborough area produces, perhaps, the best Sauvignon Blanc; the Napa Valley in the USA has a reputation for creating excellent Chardonnay; South Africa for Pinotage; Australia produces great Shiraz, or Syrah as it is called elsewhere, and Chile produces excellent Carmenere and Merlot.

Aconcagua Wine Valley

Known for Mostly Red Wine Production

The most northerly of the wine valleys close to Santiago is the Aconcagua Valley, (pronounced “Akonkawa”) about 100km north-east of the capital Santiago. This valley runs more or less from a village called Llay Llay on the Ruta 5 Panamerican about 90km north from Santiago to the east towards the Andes Mountains and the town of San Felipe, and eventually ending around the town of Los Andes.

Most of the vineyards are located in the areas around San Felipe and Los Andes. From Santiago it is only 78km northeast and the good, paved road also leads to the ski centre called Portillo, as well as the Chilean border with Argentina and then on to Mendoza. By the way, Mendoza is 293km east of Los Andes, by road, literally “on the other side” of the Andes.

The Aconcagua valley is named after the tallest mountain in the Americas, Aconcagua (6,960m). The valley basin has been created over hundreds of thousands of years (or longer) by the Aconcagua River, which flows down from the Andes on its way to the Pacific Ocean. Along the banks of the river are alluvial and colluvial steps, or terraces, that are perfect for the cultivation of grape vines.


The grape varieties that have been grown here from the mid 1980’s are predominantly the reds of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenere and Syrah that thrive in the hotter areas closest to the Andes. However, at the western end of the valley, therefore closer to Llay Llay, due to it being further away from the Andes there is a cooler climate better suited to these varieties: Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir.

Climate and Weather

In the valley, summer days are hot, nighttime is cool, there is an 8% risk of frost and an average annual rainfall of 214mm.

Casa Blanca Wine Valley (with San Antonio Sub Valley)

Known for mostly White Wine Production

The Casablanca wine-producing valley is a mainly “cool-climate” wine valley, ideal for producing some excellent white wine varieties, especially Sauvignon Blanc, but there are also other varieties that do well here that are explained further below.


To the west of Santiago towards the port of Valparaiso (or “Valpo” as it is called locally) lies the Casablanca Valley. Only planted in the 1980’s this 10,000-acre area has managed to benefit from fog that often settles on the valley floor early mornings, which helps to slow down the grape maturation process and keep the air cool for longer.

Along the valley floor are planted mainly the Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay grape varieties, whereas at higher altitudes on the valley sides, therefore out of the colder temperatures that linger on the valley floor, are the Merlot and Syrah grapes.

However, the star of the Casablanca Valley is the Sauvignon Blanc which has the distinct minerality and crispness found in classic Sauvignon Blancs.


Overall, the grapes cultivated here are Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc. Others, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenere.

Climate and Weather

The Casablanca Valley is approximately halfway between Santiago and the Pacific coast, and this combination is not lost on the creation of an ideal climate for the growing of “cold grapes”, usually used in white wine production.

The influence of the cold, Pacific breezes creates what is known as the “marine influence” that cools the otherwise hot day time temperature. The usual morning fog, that sits in the valley, together with the granite and clay soil combine to provide an excellent “terroir” for the white wine varietals.

The San Antonio Valley (Sub Valley to Casa Blanca)


The San Antonio valley is a small valley that runs almost parallel to the main Casa Blanca Valley but enjoys its own microclimate. It has three sub sectors within it called Rosario, Leyda and Lo Abraco.


Parallel to the western end of the Casa Blanca Valley, but about 20km south. To get here you need to go through the Casabanca Valley on Ruta 68 and then turn south onto Ruta 64 at a point just before the town of Casa Blanca. Continue for about 17km to a turn off east (left) and this leads to the San Antonio valley.


The “terroir” of the San Antonio Valley is, typically, thin, and rocky due to its closer proximately to the Pacific Ocean and this, combined with the maritime influence creates a well-suited environment for the cultivation of Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir, as well as Syrah – all varietals that require cool days (in terms of wine production).

Climate and Weather

Similar to the main, Casablanca Valley, the San Antonio Valley receives the maritime influence from the Pacific and its cool breeze. However, it has less fog and receives more sunshine due to the hills being at a slightly higher elevation compared to the valley floor of the Casa Blanca Valley.

Maipo Wine Valley

Known for mostly Red Wine Production

One of the better-known wine-producing valleys in the Chilean Central Valley is the Maipo. Historically one of the first valleys in Chile to have been used for wine grape production producing excellent red wines such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Syrah and Carmenere.


The Maipo Valley contains the River Maipo and is located about 30kms south of Santiago running out from the Cajon del Maipo and the snow melt from the Andes at the end.


Over half of the area’s 27,000-acre production is Cabernet Sauvignon. Other red varietals grown here are Merlot, Malbec, Carmenere and Syrah complimented by Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay representing white grapes.

The eastern sector of the valley touches the foothills of the Andes, whereas the western area reaches the base of the lower, Coastal mountains, as well as enjoying soils that are sandier. This slight disparity in the makeup of the valley “terroir” means that different grapes do better at one end of the valley compared to the other end.

Climate and Weather

In the Maipo Valley the climate is Mediterranean with dry, warm summers and cold, wet winters. The soil here, together with the climate (313mm rainfall, 26% risk of frost and extremes of day and night temperatures), make the grapes grow and ripen slowly giving elegant, robust and flavorful results, and many of the countries premium wines are from this valley, in particular from the Andes end of the valley.

Colchagua Wine Valley

Known for mostly Red Wine Production

Within the southern half of the larger Rapel Valley is the Colchagua Valley. Traditionally a rural area, but wine growers discovered at the end of the 1990’s that its “terroir” was ideal for the cultivation of grapes for wine production.

The position of the valley is closer to the Pacific than, for example, the Maipo valley. It also has a wider valley floor than the Casablanca Valley and enjoys high day time temperatures that are cooled off by the breeze from the Pacific Ocean, which prolongs the grape maturation period, resulting in fresh, strongly-coloured red wines.


The Colchagua Wine Valley has in its heart the “cowboy” town of Santa Cruz 191km southwest from Santiago. The drive here is along the main Ruta 5, Panamerican Highway, south to San Fernando and from here a turn right (west) to Santa Cruz (approximately 41km).


Known for producing excellent red wines from Merlot, Carmenere, and Cabernet Sauvignon. However, vineyards that are located closer to the coast, therefore in the western sector, are getting good results for colder-climate white wines.

Climate and Weather

Similar to the other wine-producing valleys within Chile’s Central Valley Region, the overall climate in the Colchagua area is Mediterranean with sunny days that are hot and dry during summer months, but these are tempered by the cool air that comes in off the cold, Pacific Ocean.

However, one of the key ingredients to the success of the Colchagua Wine Valley is the River Tinguiririca which flows along the northern boundary of the valley bringing with it water from the Andes snow melt as well as silts and clays.

Argentina - Mendoza Wine Area (within which are various wine sectors)

Known for mostly Red Wine Production

Mendoza in Argentina is a long way west from Buenos Aires, but almost “next to” Santiago, in Chile. The Chilean population centre closest to Mendoza is Los Andes, and this town is only 78km northeast from Santiago.

Mendoza has the reputation for being the largest and best wine-producing area in Argentina. It is especially known for excellent Malbec wine.

Although the vines here are only “the other side” of the Andes to those in Chile, there are a number of factors that distinguish a difference in the grape-growing conditions. For example, Mendoza is in the rain shadow of the Andes and receives less rain that the western (Chilean) side of Andes. Most of the vineyards here are planted at an altitude higher than the vineyards in Chile, which means they are in cooler air, and the soil is more alluvial (rocky and sandy). The sun also rises in the east but will drop down quickly behind the Andes early evening creating a sudden drop in temperature. These subtle differences have a great influence in how successful certain grapes do in the circumstances of the “terroir”.


Mendoza and its wine-growing region is located in western Argentina at the foot of the eastern side of the Andes almost parallel to Santiago. Most of the wine-grape growing area is located south of the city of Mendoza.


The Mendoza wine-growing region is notably known for its Malbec grape, but is getting good results with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Torrontes, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc among other varietals.

Climate and Weather

Like central Chile, Mendoza has a Mediterreanen climate with dry, hot summer days. However, the nighttime is cool with cold air coming down off the Andes, and the vines, as well as Mendoza city, being in the cold shadow of the Andes as soon as the sun sets behind the high mountain ridge.

There is little rain in the Mendoza area because of its location in the rain shadow. Irrigation, where required, is provided by local rivers that run down off the Andes from snow melt such as the Mendoza and Tunuyan Rivers.

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