South America - Wines & Spirits; a small introduction

For those a little familiar with the world of wines Chile and Argentina have been long time players on the international wine market. In many European supermarkets you can find Chilean wines at better prices than their European competitors and the international wine market only keeps growing. In size the Argentinean producers are close to their Chilean counterparts and these wines can also easily be found in most supermarkets or liquor stores. After this some may have heard about Pisco the typical Peruvian brandy made out of white grapes or Cachaza, the sugar cane liquor from Brazil but this will be as far as most people’s knowledge about drinks coming from South America will go (I know what you are thinking but…no, tequila comes from Mexico).

Other popular local South American Spirits include Aguardiente in Colombia, Venezuela and Ecuador, a liquor based on anis & sugar cane; Guarape in the Amazon Basin made from fermented fruits and of course chicha de jora in the Andean Highlands, beer made from fermented corn and sugar. It must be noted that most South American spirits with the exception of Pisco are based on the native sugar cane for its fermentation and hence alcohol levels.

The royal juice of grapes was only introduced in the Americas during the bloody years of the Spanish conquest around the 1550’s, supposedly with the first vines arriving to Mexico being called “the common black grape” or Muscatel. From here the fame of grapes and its luxury product expanded alongside the territory conquered by the Spanish and it did not take long before the first local wines were produced. In these years these could only be consumed by the conquistadors and spanish royals. When the Spanish Crown decided that wine had to be imported from the motherland, Peru, by then a large producer of grapes, suffered from huge overproduction allowing the excess in grapes to be used to create Peru’s national brandy; Pisco. The name refers to the same region on the Peruvian South Coast. In the following years, Peru became so focussed on the production of Pisco that wine production almost came to a complete hold. This allowed bodegas in Chile, who used to produce a lot of sweet wines but under the influence of French immigrants, bringing along new productions processes and innovations, to capitalize on this change in focus from their neighbors and become the main regional player for wines in centuries to come.

The main wine regions in South America are focussed around three areas; Central Chile, the arid plains, valleys and mountain slopes between the Pacific Ocean and the Andes. Central Argentina; on the rolling Andean mountain plains surrounding the Mendoza Region on the other side of the Chilean Wine Valleys and finally on the Peruvian South Coast. The arid Desert around Pisco and Ica, bordered on one side by the Pacific and the other the Andes Mountains. Most South American wines are based on the Bordeaux winemaking and after dumping the more sweet Muscatel grape in favor for the more sophisticated french grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Sauvignon Blanc experienced a huge boom in production and sales of these South American wines. Some grapes such as the famous Chilean Carmenere originated in France but are nowadays almost exclusively grown in Chile and Argentina to some extent.

Argentina Wine Trip Recommendations;

  • Familia Zuccardi; Cabernet Sauvignon, Caladoc, Malbec, Chardonnay, Ancellotta, Tempranillo and Syrah
  • Colome; Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, Chardonnay, and Syrah
  • Bodegas Salentein; Portillo, Killka, and Salentein
  • Trapiche; Cabernet Sauvignon, Caladoc, Malbec, Chardonnay, Ancellotta, Tempranillo and Syrah

Chile Wine Trip Recommendations;

  • Almaviva winery; symbiosis between Viña Concha y Toro of Chile and Baron Philippe de Rothschild of France
  • Viu Manent; located in the Colchagua Valley; Carmenère, Petit Verdot and Malbec
  • Kingston Vineyards; Casablanca Valley; in a valley known for its whites, they pioneered red wines, and are now selling them across the world.
  • Casa Silva; Colchagua Valley; known for its Carmenères, along with historic Sauvignon Blanc vines, Casa Silva produces a wide variety of high-quality brands.

Peru Wine Trip Recommendations;

  • Tacama; arguably the oldest, still operating vineyard in South America. Known for its quality Piscos as well as sweet and dry wines.
  • Queirolo; vineyard dates back to the 18th century, known for its Piscos and typical local wines.

If you would be interested in visiting any of these wine regions in South America or receiving a detailed itinerary for a wine vacation to South America, please do not hesitate to contact us.

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