Chile’s unique combination of geography and climate make it ideal for winegrowing.
Chile’s geographic barriers—the Atacama Desert to the north, the Andes Mountains to the east, the Patagonian ice fields to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the west—make Chile a veritable agricultural island. Together they help maintain healthy conditions and protect vineyards against pests and disease. And with a geography as diverse as Chile’s, you can be sure that the climate will have terrific variation.
Chile’s Unique Geography
The cool sea air is partially blocked by the Coastal Mountains, although it finds its way inland by following the course of the transversal river valleys.
During the day, sea breezes carried by the cold Humboldt Current penetrate inland, and each night, cold air descends from the snow- covered peaks of the Andes.
The Influence of the Pacific Currents on Chile’s Climate
Chile’s climate is highly influenced by the cooling effect of the Pacific Ocean and the Humboldt Current that begins in the icy waters near Antarctica and flows up the western coast of South America. Curiously, when the effect of the Humboldt’s cold current hits Chile’s northern coastline it produces clouds and fog, but little or no precipitation, which then contributes to making the Atacama Desert the driest on Earth!
The combination of beneficial natural barriers and a benevolent Mediterranean climate make sustainability and organics a logical choice in Chilean winegrowing. In fact, Chile has some of the largest organic vineyards in the world.
Ideal Mediterranean Climate
Chile’s Mediterranean climate features the warm, dry summers and cold, rainy winters that vines love. Even better, the interaction between the effects of the sea and those of the Andes result in a growing season that revels in bright sunny days and temperatures that take a dramatic dip each night to create the broad daily temperature oscillation that wine grapes need to develop fresh fruit flavors, crisp acidity, and in the case of red wines, ripe tannins, deep color, and high levels of antioxidants and flavonols.
Altitude with Attitude
All things Chilean seem to bear an indelible mark imprinted upon them by the omnipresence of the ice-capped mountains that tower over the valleys below. In recent years, more and more vineyards creep closer and higher to the peaks, where the sun is slow to appear over the eastern peaks and makes up for its late arrival with the intensity that comes with altitude. Currents of wind climb and descend over the course of the day to create a daily pendulum of temperatures that swings broadly between daytime highs and night time lows. This is just what rich red grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon thrive on.
Soil & Terroir
With so much geographic variety, the Chilean landscape also offers a vast mosaic of terroirs and soil types.
Soils are healthy, well-drained, and have a variety of origins (alluvial, colluvial, fluvial, etc.) and textures (loam, clay, sand, silt).
Despite the relatively dry atmospheric conditions, abundant water for irrigation flows from the eternal ice caps of the Andes Mountains that tower all along Chile’s eastern border.
Cruising down the Center
Chile’s long stretch of Pan American Highway cruises straight through the Central Valley, over the rivers that flow westward from the Andes and around the sections of the Coastal Mountains that jut inland from time to time. Varieties such as Carmenere adore this even keel of an environment, where the weather is stable and the land is generally rich.
Cool on the Coast
Anyone who’s ever had a dip in the Pacific Ocean knows that it is cold! And when it smacks up against the coast it makes its presence known. It blankets the land with a thick cool fog each morning and then blows it away again by noon to allow the bright sunshine… just the type of conditions that cool-climate grapes such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir thrive on.
Whichever direction you look, Chile’s highly diverse geography and beneficial climate makes Chile the Logical Choice in Wine for today’s consumers who demand high quality and ecologically sound practices.