When thinking about Chile, wine may not be the first thing that comes to mind for most travelers. However, for wine lovers, Chile should be on top of the list. In Chile you will find amazing Cabernet Sauvignons, Bordeaux-style Blends, and crisp Chardonnays at reasonable prices. And what better way to explore the Chilean wine region than a road trip in Chile.
The vast Chilean wine regions are mainly in the Central Valley and easily accessible from Santiago. In this wine road trip in Chile we will explore four different wine regions in 3-Days, enjoy the bohemian coastal town of Valparaiso and eat some delicious food.
Few Facts About Chilean Wine
The Chilean Central Valley has a moderate climate with hot and dry summers, and cold nights – perfect for growing grapes. Even though Chile has been making wine since the 16th century, it is considered a New World wine-making country.
Chile ranks sixth among wine-producing countries worldwide. Chileans drink an average of five gallons of wine per person per year
The Carmenère grape is currently only being cultivated in Chile. Until recently it has been mistaken for Merlot. It was completely wiped out in Europe by the phylloxera epidemic and considered extinct up until a few years ago when it was rediscovered in Chile. Many winemakers are trying to make single-grape Carmenère wines but in my opinion, it is best used as a blend.
There are many wine regions in Chile, but for this road trip, we will visit four Aconcagua Valley, Casablanca Valley, Maipo Valley and Colchagua Valley.
Summary of the WINE Road Trip in Chile
This road trip will start and finish in Santiago. You will either need to rent a car or hire a driver.
The road trip starts with heading north and exploring the Aconcagua wine region and finishing the first day of wine tasting and exploring in Valparaiso.
The next day will start with a visit to the Casablanca region and then a drive to Maipo Valley and a night at the winery.
The final day of wine tasting will be in Colchagua Valley and then driving back to Santiago.
Day 1 – Aconcagua Valley
Aconcagua Valley is the most northern wine region in Chile, located approximately 75 miles north of Santiago. The region sits in the valley of South America’s highest mountain, Aconcagua. Which provides this region with a unique microclimate and soil composition for growing Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and most significantly Syrah.
A wide variety of wineries large and small are open to visitors in this region. Viña Errázuriz is one of the more popular wineries in this region that visitors flock to. But if you are looking for more of a boutique-style family-owned winery Viña El Escorial may be a better choice.
OPTION: As of recently there is a way to travel from Aconcagua Valley via mountain pass to the Argentine wine region Mendoza with some fantastic views.
After a visit to a winery or two make your way to the pacific coast and spend the night in Valparaiso, Chilean San Francisco. Valpo, as the locals call it, is the bohemian jewel of Chile and a place that you should not skip on this journey. Finish the evening with dinner at La Caperucita y el Lobo – a beautiful husband and wife owned restaurant overlooking the Pacific Ocean.
Day 2 – Casablanca Valley to Maipo Valley
Only 25 miles inland from Valparaiso is Casablanca Valley. Lying between the Pacific Ocean and coastal mountain range, the cooler climate provides constant humidity and perfect land for growing white grapes and that is what the region is known for – outstanding white wine.
In the 1990s, Casablanca Valley experienced something of a gold rush, everyone was buying up land and starting new wineries. With that type of interest, come some big names. Morandé is one of the biggest names in town.
However, our recommendation would be to stop at Bodegas RE for brunch, a vineyard tour, and wine tasting. It is a small family-owned winery, only in business since 2008 but with long roots in cultivating grapes and making wine. We had a fabulous brunch and wine tasting here and cannot wait to return.
After delicious lunch at Bodegas RE, get on the road and head toward Maipo Valley and another low-profile winery with delicious wine and beautiful vineyards – Viña El Principal.
Spend the night at Viña Santa Rita at Hotel Casa Real. Santa Rita is situated in a beautiful park where you can walk around or get on one of the many tours offered here including a picnic in the vineyards or dinner at their restaurant.
Day 3 – Colchagua Valley
Colchagua is considered Chile’s Napa Valley and is a must-visit wine region. It is a red-wine lovers’ paradise. Major wine varieties from the Colchagua are: Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carménère, Syrah, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc (coastal), Viognier.
Here you can cycle through the valley stopping at different wineries, blend and bottle your own creation, go on the horse carriage tour of the vineyards or have a picnic in the vineyards, or all the above. Options are endless.
Colchagua Valley is home to some big names: Lapostolle, Montes Alpha, Casa Silva, and our favorite Laura Hartwig.
After exploring the wineries, you can either decide to spend the night in the small colonial town Santa Cruz, considered the capital of Colchagua Valley, or head back to Santiago.
This wine road trip is customizable to your needs. If you are looking to add more time to your trip, I would suggest:
- Adding one more day in Valparaiso to explore
- Spending an entire day in Casablanca Valley, instead of just half a day
- Adding one more day in Colchagua Valley
Trip Logistics For Wine Road Trip in Chile
All international flights to Chile come through Santiago which makes Santiago the perfect starting and finishing point for this wine road trip. Most visitors to Santiago stay in Lastarria or Bellavista neighborhood there are plenty of hotels to choose from in both neighborhoods.
For getting around the country, you can either hire a driver or rent a car. Renting a car and driving in Chile is pretty straightforward. All the roads for this wine road trip are paved, accessible and easily found on Google Maps.
Reservations with the wineries are strongly recommended. For most of them, you cannot even get onto the property without a reservation. If you are used to driving around Europe and stopping at the wineries that you notice off the beaten path, in most cases that is not feasible in South American wineries. Most of the wineries are gated, and your name must be on the list for the guard to let you in.
Another noticeable difference to us was that most visits to the wineries included food options. Whether they set up a picnic for you or have a full-blown restaurant on premises depends on the winery, but all of them included some food options. Which we were grateful for as we have been stranded without food, tasting wine through USA and Europe too many times.
Shipping wines internationally from Chile, and South America in general, is expensive. However, a trick we use is bringing an extra luggage piece. Some South American airlines allow two checked-in bags per passenger but if they don’t, paying for an extra luggage piece is still cheaper than shipping it. Just do not forget to declare this at the customs.
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