Chile may be traditionally associated with some of South America’s finest red wines, but the young Casablanca wine region has been developing an international reputation for the quality of its crisp white styles.
The Casablanca Valley is settled on a coastal plain between the capital city of Santiago and Valparaiso. The region was a late starter with wine production, which only began in the 1980s during the revitalisation of the country’s viticulture industry – but cool climate styles such as Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay have since flourished.
The valley is one of Chile’s coolest wine growing regions, with a Mediterranean climate similar to that of California’s Napa Valley where hot days are followed by cold, misty nights to provide excellent growing conditions not only for Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay but also some impressive Pinot Noir, Merlot and Syrah.
The Casablanca wine region’s cool climate comes courtesy of sea breezes that temper the heat and bring in heavy fogs during the evening that survive until the next day’s afternoon. Wine growing is also encouraged by the loose quality of the ancient soils, which allows vine roots to penetrate deeply to deliver wines with greater subtlety.
The region can be divided into three smaller wine districts, with each experiencing various exposure to the ocean:
Settled on the lowest lying land in the far west of the region with the greatest exposure to sea breezes is Lower Casablanca. Although this district is not influenced by the ocean’s temperature-stabilising effects to the same extent as neighbouring San Antonio, it is home to the coolest vineyards in the Casablanca wine region. By contrast, Upper Casablanca 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. Meanwhile, Central Casablanca shares traits from both of these districts.
Casablanca’s reputation was originally founded on inexpensive white wines that are crisp and fruit laden, making them ideal for everyday consumption. However, the standards of wines that have emerged from the region more recently have been raised to premium quality. These include some of the finest Sauvignon Blanc in Chile, with Chardonnay pursuing to challenge for the title of the country’s best white style. And, the region has also been exploring the potential of several new white grape varities including Riesling, Viognier and Gerwurztraminer.
That’s not to say that red styles are completely ignored in the Casablanca wine region as the cool climate conditions lend themselves to the production of some high-quality vintages. Pinot Noir reigns supreme among these, although complex Syrah and respectable Cabernet Sauvignon are also grown in the area. Casablanca Valley wineries are open all year round, but the best time to visit is between September and June with most wine tourists using Santiago as a base from which to reach Chile’s most renowned wine regions, which also include the valleys of Maipo, San Antonio, Cachapoal and Colchagua.
At Wine Paths, our local expert in Chile can organise exclusive tours of the Casablanca wine region, which can be customised to include elaborate tastings, luxury stays, fine dining experiences and some unique activities. Among these is a wine tasting, culture, art and coastal tour of Casablanca and Valparaiso, which includes sampling wines from the Catrala boutique winery, which grows Saiuvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Merlot and Pinot Noir.
This is followed by a visit to Valparaiso, one of the first Chilean cities founded by the Spanish and a UNESCO World Heritage site since 2013 for its architectural and cultural significance. Visitors can take century old hillside elevators (ascensores) to explore a labyrinth of streets of brightly coloured buildings with magnificent views of the harbour below.
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