Within two hours’ drive from the capital city of Santiago lies the rolling hills and misted vineyards of the Casablanca Valley and the neighbouring disorderly yet charming port city of Valparaiso.
Several wineries in this area, which is one of the fastest growing and most easily accessible wine regions in Chile, have united to promote the Casablanca Valley wine route or ‘Ruta del Vino de Casablanca’ as it is known locally. Many of the wineries can be reached by travelling the Ruta 68 main road that stretches from Santiago to Valparaiso, while several have restaurants and accommodation on site should visitors choose to stay beyond tastings.
The Casablanca Valley was a late developer in terms of wine production, with the first vines only being planted in the 1980s during the revitalisation of the country’s viticulture industry. However, the cool climate conditions that include sea breezes tempering the heat and bringing in fogs that arrive at night and last until the next day’s afternoon have provided a favourable environment for vineyards to flourish. While Chile is typically associated with world class red wines, the Casablanca Valley is one of the country’s few regions preoccupied with making white wine styles – of which its Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay varietals have received international acclaim.
These crisp white wines are noted for their freshness and citrus flavours with an almost saline quality due to the Casablanca Valley wine route’s closeness to the ocean. They can be paired with typical seafood dishes such as cerviche or machas a la parmesana (Chilean clams with parmesan cheese). Despite Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay dominating vineyards in this region, red grape varieties are also planted here – with Pinot Noir excelling in the cool climate to produce aromatic wines with intense fruit flavours. Syrah is another red variety from the valley that has been lauded for its silky texture and fruity, spice infused flavours.
The Casablanca Valley can be unofficially divided into three separate sub-regions. The Lower Casablanca in the far west of the region enjoys the greatest temperature stabilising effects from cool breezes that have travelled over 10,000kms of wild seas. Upper Casablanca, meanwhile, sits at the highest elevation on the eastern edge of the region where it is less affected by ocean breezes and receives more sunlight and the greatest fluctuations in temperatures between day and night. And, Central Casablanca shares traits from both of these districts.
These sub-regions can be visited along the Casablanca Valley wine route, with many wineries offering the opportunity to explore the vineyards and cellars before sampling a selection of premium vintages, which are often accompanied by local gourmet cuisine. The harlequin city of Valparaiso is colourful and chaotic in equal measure and has been described as a ‘wonderful mess’ featuring candy coloured buildings and ancient funiculars that descend from steep hillsides towards the sea port below.
Visitors can wander a labyrinth maze of cobbled streets and crumbling mansions that have been daubed with some of the finest street art in Latin America. The town comprises 43 cerros (hills), each with their own neighbourhood and identity, which are reached from the natural harbour by century old elevators called ascensores. One of the city’s main attractions is the house of Nobel Peace Prize winning poet and diplomat Pablo Neruda, who once described the city as: ‘Valparaíso, how absurd you are…you haven't combed your hair, you've never had time to get dressed, life has always surprised you.'
If you are interested in plotting a course through the Casablanca Valley wine route, contact Claudio our local expert in Chile to arrange an exclusive tour that can be tailor made to meet your exact specifications.
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