What do you think of when people mention Chile? Oh, people in your life don’t just randomly shout countries at you? If that’s the case, we lead very different lives, you and I. Well when I hear the word Chile, my mind goes immediately to mountains and sweeping landscapes and the large carved faces of Easter Island and Ben Stiller museum comedies. But some people, say, the kind who don’t have to smell their clothes before getting dressed, they think of wine.
Chile’s wine regions are now world famous and right up there with those of Italy, France, and California who, I’m told, knows how to party. However, Chile’s are way younger than the rest having really only gained popularity in the last 30 years or so. So while France’s wine regions start Botox injections on Monday, Chile’s are at Coachella wearing something their mother’s do not approve of young lady!
Today, the wine regions of Chile specialize mainly in chardonnays, sauvignon blancs, and cabernet sauvignons, which I assume means something to you, person reading about wine tasting in Chile. I, myself, am a beer drinker. I know there are reds and I know there are whites… and sometimes there are pinks—excuse me, blush—and some have bubbles. They each have their own kind of vessel and people get super pissed if you drink the wrong color wine with the wrong color food. However, I do know that all wines are good with cheese and alpacas. ALL. OF. THEM.
To give you a better idea of what to expect from this article, an anecdote: On my second wine tasting in Chile, after trying many, many wines, I finally chose a favorite–the País. A wine that solicited this response from my wine guru: “Ah, yes. That is the least sophisticated wine in all of Chile!” This statement sums up so much that is my life. I feel seen.
If you’re looking for a post on tannin levels, acidity, balance, bouquet, complexity, or any of the other terms I just plucked from an article titled “Sound Like a Wine Pro With These Words”, this is not the place for you. Go back to your dog shows and your equestrian competitions. However, if you’re here to learn more about wine tasting in Chile as a super fun activity (because you’re drunk) and cultural learning experience (because there’s a tour bus) in which to partake that will double as the day’s Happy Hour, then welcome! You’re among friends!
WINE TASTING IN CHILE: CASABLANCA OR MAIPO VALLEY?
By my count, there are 16 (okay, maybe 17) distinct wine regions in Chile, all located in the middle third of the world’s longest country. They have names like Aconcagua, Limarí, Huasco, and Colchagua. But, without even having been there, I’d have to say my favorite would be the Bío Bío region—they’re the geniuses specializing in mass-produced boxed País wines and jug wines. We—the least sophisticated of all the wine drinkers—need to stick together!
My four friends and I knew wine tasting in Chile was something we wanted to check off, but we couldn’t decide where to go. We’d be in both the cities of Santiago and Valparaiso for a couple days each—should we do the Maipo Valley outside Santiago? Or the Casablanca Valley outside Valparaiso? Maipo or Casablanca? MAIPO OR CASABLANCA!!? Not since little Charlie Bucket had to choose between stealing an Everlasting Gobstopper and just plain not being a jerk has anyone had to make a tougher decision.
Soooooooooooooooooooooo we did them both. And we did them in two very different ways. After all, you shouldn’t have to make such important decisions—you do not sit on an iron throne. You should be able to have cake and ice cream, you’re a grown-ass human being. Maybe you’ll even be rewarded with the keys to a chocolate kingdom at the end of the day. Who’s to say?
HOWEVER, if you must choose, you’ll need to know:
- Where you’ll be geographically
- What kind of experience you want to have
- How important alpacas are to you
- What kinds of wine you want to taste. And if that’s the case, congratulations for sticking around on this blog for this long. Cheers to you, girlfriend. I’ll try to make you proud.
WINE TASTING IN CHILE’S CASABLANCA VALLEY
So where exactly is the Casablanca Valley even located? Right here on this map ⇣⇣⇣ Slide to left… slide to the right…
…criss-cross! EVERYBODY CLAP YOUR HANDS! (You hate me for that don’t you?)
So actually, Chile’s Casablanca Valley is located just a little south and a little inland of Valparaiso—the colorful port city where white walls go to die. Grape vines were first planted in this area in the mid-1980s, about the same time I, myself, sprouted up out of the ground. (That is where babies come from, right?)
The Casablanca wine region is known for its white wines, mostly sauvignon blanc and chardonnay, but also pinot noir because Chile is an equal opportunity intoxicator.
WHAT TO EXPECT WINE TASTING IN CASABLANCA
When it came to wine tasting in Chile, for our day in the Casablanca Valley we chose to do so independently, as in, not as part of an organized tour. Just four grown adults, out there in the world drinking wine, taking pictures of the alpacas’ jacked-up teeth.
Our time was our own—no rush, no agenda, no schedule to keep, and no clue what our names were by the second winery. Okay, maybe that was just me, Patty Mayonnaise Ashley Smith–see, I know it. No one to tell us ‘no’ or where to go, or say we’re only dreaming. Wine tasting in Chile was, absolutely, a whole new world. But instead of a royal princess mistaken in a market, I was most definitely a street rat struggling with holding in my wine burps.
This plan-less plan of ours really came in handy when it was time to take over the gate attendant’s job and operate the winery’s lift gate my damn self. (It is I who chooses who will stay and who will go! Drunk on wine and power.) And when I decided to try to figure out what the dirt was made of. And when I decided it was my life’s mission to get the most perfect picture of a chicken and her babies. Here’s how that turned out:
During our first day wine tasting in Chile we visited three wineries and participated in formal wine tastings at each. And lemme tell ya, there is nothing like having someone tell you how you should be holding your glass to make you feel like maybe you shouldn’t use words like “ash tray-like” or “purple” to describe what you’re tasting.
Wine tasting in the Casablanca Valley was extremely peaceful—for me, that is, not for everyone who had to listen to me sing “We No Speak Americano” to no end. Regardless, wineries in the Casablanca Valley are out in the country. It’s wide open and beautiful, dusty and scenic. The views are endless, the whole place is so calm, and we saw exactly six other people between the three wineries we visited all day. And two of those people had snacks so they were our favorites. Yes I keep score.
WHERE TO GO WINE TASTING IN CASABLANCA
There are somewhere between 8 and 20 wineries in Chile’s Casablanca Valley (the internet is really letting me down today). We chose to visit three of them—Viña Emiliana, Bodegas RE, and Casas del Bosque—and we chose them based on their locations, their hours, whether or not they had alpacas on site, and the recommendations of our friend Kay based on her earlier visits. But mostly the alpaca thing.
The first winery we visited was Viña Emiliana, a fully organic and biodynamic winery. And even though it was our first, it turned out to be my absolute favorite after a full seven days of wine tasting in Chile. Way to set yourself up, Ashley. Don’t you know you’re supposed to eat the crispiest slice of bacon last?
Viña Emiliana specializes in cabernet sauvignon, some blends, and some wine types I’ve never heard of until I visited Chile like Carmenere and Carignan. So of course I would tell you that the Casablanca Valley is a popular white wine destination… and then immediately contradict myself.
They also specialize in sustainability through biodiversity integration, solid and liquid waste management, efficient energy use, and by using alpacas to keep pests away. If only we could use alpacas to keep other things away… [dream sequence music]… like door-to-door solicitors and robo-callers, cigarette smokers, men who say “You should smile more,” getting tagged in random Ray Ban promotions on Facebook, people who whistle in public… Y’all, this is getting away from me.
Viña Emiliana is beautiful and an animal lover’s dream. There are funny alpacas, chickens, geese, cows, horses, and an adorable dachshund—each pulling its own weight. The wine tasting area is beautiful with beautiful views. We opted for a full wine and cheese tasting with a beautiful wine guru and even the Brazilians we shared our tasting with—to the shock of no one—were beautiful. Look, it was all just so beautiful, ok?
They offer a variety of full wine tastings and tours of the winery, they’ll set you up to make your own wine, and they’ll even hook you up with your very own organic picnic on the property. They have a full wine shop that also sells Patagonia outerwear because wine not? Did we make fun of this at first? Yes. Did I leave with a brand new Patagonia fleece jacket? Also yes.
The wine here was… good… I think? After our tasting the four of us each purchased a full glass of our favorite—mine being the least sophisticated, naturally—and adulted as long as socially appropriate before making a beeline to the alpaca pen. Four hours later (yeah, oops) it was time to move on to the next winery.
Wine tasting in Chile is an experience you need to have, but I think it’s obvious there are enough things at Viña Emiliana to distract you from the fact that you don’t enjoy drinking wine all that much anyway.
I’m not gonna lie, by the time we hit up Bodegas RE, I was LIT AF, and by that I mean Little InToxicated, Absolutely Famished.
So Bodegas RE is interesting in terms of winemaking in a way that even I know is weird. The ‘RE’ part of their name comes from the concepts of Recreate, Reinvent, and Reveal and they make wines like: Pinotel (a combination of pinot noir and moscatel—yes, it’s brown), Cabergnan (a mix of cabernet and carignan), Syranoir (a “cofermentation” of syrah and pinot noir), and Chardonnoir (you know where I’m going with this). I’d also go ahead and assume Bodegas RE is the brains behind Orange Vanilla Coke too.
At Bodegas RE we did a fully guided wine tasting (well, I personally did a half tasting, emphasis on the cheese) led by a guy whose commentary was about as interesting as my take on the Oxford comma. However, Kay had done a tasting there on a previous visit and said her guide was fantastic. I guess it’s all just hit or miss. Or in their case, hiss.
Bodegas RE has a large shop of their wines and locally produced goods like clothing, blankets, and locally made Alfajor El Nogal (honestly I don’t know what it is either, just make sure to buy a bunch of them). They, too, offer a BUNCHA tastings, a fancy picnic, and tours of their production facilities for wine, fruit liqueurs, and balsamic vinegar.
CASAS DEL BOSQUE
Casas del Bosque is Chile’s fancy home for whites. [I should reword that, but I’m not.] They specialize in cool-climate wine varieties like sauvignon blanc, chardonnay, and riesling—but also offer pinot noir and syrah. In 2010 Casas del Bosque was designated the “Best Vineyard to Visit in Chile” and in 2017 their Syrah Gran Reserva won “Best in Show.” I TOLD you these were dog show people.
Casas del Bosque is nice. Like, NOICE. I definitely felt too intoxicated to be somewhere so fancy. Just seven days later I would find myself drinking Michelob Ultra on the rooftop of a bar in downtown Nashville called Kid Rock’s Big Ass Honky Tonk. I don’t handle places like Casas del Bosque very well. As showcased by my use of the term ‘wine burps’ and the numerous pictures of dirt I found on my phone the next day, including this gem…
To complete our first day of wine tasting in Chile, we opted for yet another full-on wine tasting at Casas del Bosque. We sampled… yeah I don’t remember that. But my credit card bill says I paid for the Premium Wine Tasting so it looks like we tried the Sauvignon Blanc Gran Reserva, the Chardonnay Gran Reserva, the Pinot Noir Gran Reserva, the Syrah Pegueñas Producciones, and the Ícono Gran Estate.
The four of us shared our 25-minute wine tasting with another couple who shared their cured meats and cheeses with us. They’re now the godparents to any future children I may birth.
The Casas del Bosque property is beautiful (go figure) and they have a handful of different tours and tastings, and even an experience designed just for women. Can Kid Rock’s Big Ass Honky Tonk say that? (Whatdoyouthink.) You can become a winemaker for a day, take a bicycle tour of the vineyards, and even take part in the annual harvest which includes riding tractors, picking grapes, and eating empanadas. You can even get married here if you’ve had enough chardonnay and feel so inclined. Ladies, if the world’s softest dirt is on your wedding wish list, SEARCH. OVER.
HOW TO GET AROUND CASABLANCA
Assuming you’re starting and ending your day wine tasting in Chile in the nearby port city of Valparaiso, you’ll first want to head to the bus station. It’s most likely the one you arrived to Valpo in from Santiago, but since you were focused on your Uber pickup, here’s where the bus station is:
At the bus station, search the ticket windows for signs that say “Casablanca” printed in large font on a piece of computer paper. Chile’s just keeping it real. Real early 1990s that is. Pretty sure they had to tear off the perforated edges too. (Readers under 30, ask your parents.)
There will likely be more than one bus company offering trips to Casablanca. We passed up the first one we came to because of wait time and went with the next one, a company called Buses Casablanca, who had a bus that was leaving within 5 minutes. And no, that’s not long enough to use the restroom first.
The bus ride from downtown Valparaiso to Casablanca takes about 30 minutes and you’ll be dropped off in Casablanca center. From there you can grab one of the cabs waiting at the cab stand and shout things like, “To the alpacas!” They probably won’t know what you mean so you may need to have an actual place in mind as a backup.
To travel between wineries during your day wine tasting in Casablanca, it’s as simple as taking cabs from one place to the next. Someone from the winery you’re at will be happy to call a cab for you to get to the next one. As always, discuss the rate upfront… and then again when the car arrives—just to be on the safe, un-taken-advantage-of side of life.
To return to Valparaiso, you can just backtrack by taking a cab to Casablanca center and catching a bus back to Valpo, or you can handle things the only way you can after eight hours of wine drinking: just have the cab driver take you all the way back to the front steps of your house in Valparaiso.
Our plan was to take the bus back, but the industrious little cab driver he was mentioned he’d be happy to just drive us all the way back and our inebriated asses said OMG YES DO IT GO GO GO! As always, discuss the rate for this first. It’s not so far a drive as to be unaffordable, but if you’re wine tasting in Chile on as much of a budget as possible, there’s always the bus.
OPTIONAL CASABLANCA WINE TASTING TOURS
If wine tasting in Chile the independent way is not your style, have no fear! Organized tours are here! Check out these options for going wine tasting in Chile’s Casablanca Valley with a guide:
Casablanca Valley Wine Tasting Including 4 Vineyards | I think the name says it all really. This small group, 5-star rated tour leaves from Santiago and will pick you up and drop you off, visits 4 vineyards (including the three mentioned in this post + another), and an experienced tour guide.
Wine Tasting Tour from Santiago: Casablanca Valley and Four Vineyards | Ok, the name sounds the same… and the tour is similar… but this tour features different wineries than the one above: Veramonte, Loma Larga, Viña Mar, and Indomita. Check it out to see if this is a better fit for your tastebuds.
WINE TASTING IN CHILE’S MAIPO VALLEY
So where’s Chile’s Maipo Valley? Here’s a map – just pass to the left, then sail to the right.
Don’t be so quick to – walk away! (Dance with me!) You’re welcome.
So while Chile’s Casablanca Valley is best visited during a stay in Valparaiso, the Maipo Valley is most easily visited from Santiago, the country’s capital. The Maipo Valley wine region is the closest one to Santiago and Chile’s oldest wine-producing region all around. Unlike Casablanca, the Maipo Valley is big enough to have a few distinct subregions within itself, all of which specialize in producing cabernet sauvignon and other red things. So it’s old and specializes in cabernet? Aunt Joan, is that you?
WHAT TO EXPECT WINE TASTING IN THE MAIPO VALLEY
Remember when I said we went wine tasting in Chile in two very different ways? Well here’s where it gets interesting and by interesting I mean we get drunk on a bus and there’s a bunch of peacocks at one point.
Unlike the independent, sit-down-tasting day we had in the Casablanca Valley, in the Maipo Valley we did a full-on, guided wine tasting tour of the area. In order to try to get the most out of our last day wine tasting in Chile, the four of us booked spots on the Maipo Valley Little Wine Bus.
While the Maipo Valley Little Wine Bus was not as organized and white tablecloth-y as our day in the Casablanca Valley, it still was a few steps up from Kid Rock’s Big Ass Wine Tasting. We had an incredibly fun, interesting, and totally unexpected day during which we made wine drinking friends and never had an empty glass. I mean, NEVER, no matter how hard we (read: I) tried.
The Maipo Valley Little Wine Bus is a small group tour of the Maipo Valley wine region that includes:
- Pick up and drop off at your Airbnb or hotel in Santiago
- An educated and enthusiastic guide who doesn’t know the meaning of “fine but just a little bit”
- A designated driver
- Brunch and lunch
- A handful of intimate, local experiences
- Visits to… I wanna say four wineries?
- All the wine you could ever possibly want to consume in a single day
- And more (wine).
There was a total of just seven of us on our Little Wine Bus (plus our guide and driver) and about 45 bottles of wine consumed. Probably. We learned all about the different wines produced in the area, ate plenty of food, met a kitten named Aretha Franklin, and never felt rushed all day. We had more than enough time at each location—even considering the half hour I spent laying in the grass at our second-to-last stop. (Wine drinking is hard, y’all.)
In case it’s not obvious, our day wine tasting in the Maipo Valley was not the traditional, sit-down, narrated tastings like we experienced in Casablanca. But I think I made that clear with the words “wine bus”? Here, you’ll get to sample (a term I use loosely) one, maybe two wines from each winery, but you’ll have what seemed like an unlimited amount of each at your disposal. The Maipo Valley Little Wine Bus is definitely more to have a fun, unique experience wine tasting in Chile and less for the intricacies of wine tasting and production. And that makes it alright in my book… about wine tasting that apparently I’m writing.
WHERE TO GO WINE TASTING IN THE MAIPO VALLEY
Our Maipo Valley Wine Bus picked us up at our Airbnb and took us the 45 minutes or so to our first stop: La Espina del Arte, the home, studio, and gallery of a local artist. Our tour began with a fresh homegrown brunch in her garden followed by a tour of the art gallery and studio, followed then by the commencement of much wine drinking. It was every bit the calm before the storm. The delicate wedding ceremony before the raucous reception where a groomsman breaks a chair and someone throws a grandma (#truestory).
From there we headed to our first winery of the day: Viña De Martino, a winery run by a family from Italy. We learned about Chile’s wine regions, what Carmenere is, and the fact that my almost nonexistent tolerance to wine was going to make for a very interesting day.
Next up was a stop at Viña Santa Ema where there was a friendly dog and, more importantly, a restroom. This was followed by a visit to TerreMater winery and shop where our guide Felipe talked all about Maipo Valley wines while I took pictures of all the avocados in all the trees.
After our third winery we hit up the country house of Casaquinta Peumayen, a rural guesthouse/bed and breakfast/farm you can actually book a room at. This was our stop for lunch where we were treated to a delicious homemade meal surrounded by peacocks, itty bitty kitties, geese, and chickens, all under a canopy of fruit trees and abundant grape vines. It was all super magical.
After lunch, our next stop was… not a winery? We were told it was an event venue, but it was a beautiful old estate surrounded by vineyards. Do with that information what you like. We wandered through the vines, tasted the different grapes (riesling was the unanimous favorite), relaxed on the patio, answered all the owner’s questions about being discriminated against as a Southerner, then all-out took a nap in the grass with a dog. Well, that’s what I did at least.
Our last stop of the day was the most interesting, by far. Our time on the Maipo Valley Little Wine Bus ended in the garage behind our tour guide’s house where he introduced us to a couple varieties of historical Chilean homemade hooch which he told us were “100% alcohol.” We think he meant “100 proof”… but we can’t be sure. Especially considering I then bought our tour guide’s cup. Like, the actual cup he was drinking out of. Good times.
HOW TO GET AROUND THE MAIPO VALLEY
You heard me say “little wine bus” like a hundred times, right?
For real though, the wineries of the Maipo Valley are close enough together that you could also taxi between each one if you wanted to visit independently. However, since we’d already experienced wine tasting in Chile that way, we wanted to try something a little different. Not only was the Maipo Valley Little Wine Bus (there it is again) a fun and interesting experience, it was also really nice to not have to worry about getting around safely while intoxicated.
OPTIONAL CASABLANCA WINE TASTING TOURS
If you’re looking for something similar to our Little Wine Bus, but perhaps with different options, check out these Maipo Valley wine tasting tours:
Concha y Toro Winery Tour from Santiago | Concha y Toro is the largest and most famous winery in all of Latin America. This 4-hour guided tour includes pickup and dropoff in Santiago, a local guide, wine tasting, and more.
Maipo Valley and Santa Rita Wine Tour by Bicycle with Tastings | Maybe you want to try something completely different. If so, check out this guided winery tour BY BIKE. This tour includes all equipment, three wine tastings, a winery tour, amazing views, and hello!? fitness!
TIPS FOR WINE TASTING IN CHILE
🍷 The Number One tip for wine drinking in Chile: BRING SNACKS. I don’t know why that never occurred to us prior to our day in Casablanca, especially since I never travel without food. We were lucky to be able to add “and cheese tasting” at two of the wineries and make food-having friends at the last one, but it was barely enough. When filling an entire day with just one activity, and that activity is alcohol, pack snacks for the love of Gouda! You literally walked through a street market on the way to the bus station in Valparaiso you cotton-headed ninny muggins.
🍷 Also, just as important, STAY HYDRATED! I recommend bringing a reusable water bottle just about everywhere, but at least ask for water at every opportunity. Again—full. day. of alcohol.
🍷 DON’T WEAR WHITE. Besides the fact that Chile is one of the dustiest, dirt-iest places I’ve ever been, the wineries are even more so. Like Rihanna said, the wineries here are just “dirt dirt dirt dirt dirt” and because it’s the softest dirt in the world, you may just be tempted roll around in it. Or in the grass, depending on what hour of wine tasting in Chile you’re on. Also, inevitable wine spillage.
🍷 Maybe make RESERVATIONS? Personally, we didn’t need reservations for any of the wineries we visited in Casablanca. As I said, we were four of only ten total people I saw the entire day. (For what it’s worth, we visited on a Tuesday in mid-March.) However, if there’s a particular winery you’re especially keen on visiting, check their website and see if they require reservations for tastings.
🍷 Planning on BUYING? Of course you’re going to want to ship home some wine from the wineries you visit. That will cost you $180 USD for the shipping costs alone. However, your plane ticket to Chile either included a checked bag or will allow you to check one for wayyyy less.
But most of all, HAVE FUN!
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