The Colchagua Valley wine area is one of Chile’s best known wine regions. It was named the ‘World’s Best Wine Region’ in 2005 by Wine Enthusiast Magazine and is known for its full-bodied red wines crafted from Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère and Syrah. Located 180 km south of Santiago, the Colchagua Valley occupies the southern part of the larger Rapel Valley. Colchagua vineyards run from the Andes Mountains in the east to the Coastal Range in the west. Most of Colchagua's most important vineyards lie in the foothills of the Coastal Range, as well as the sub-regions of Apalta, Peralillo and Lolol.
The Colchagua Valley has a slightly cooler climate than the Maipo Valley located to the north, but having a Mediterranean climate, like most of Chile’s wine regions. Colchagua’s red varietals tend to be planted in the warmer east of the region, with the white Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc varietals in the cooler, ocean-influenced west. The region is characterized by steep slopes of well-drained granite soils, irrigated by the Tinguiririca River which flows through the valley bringing clear melt water from the Andes.
The valley’s diverse soils and microclimates is ideal for a numerous array of quality varietals; but extra attention has been paid to the Bordeaux varietals introduced in the late 19th century before Europe suffered its phylloxera crisis. Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère, Syrah and Merlot yield excellent, very concentrated wines, with red fruit focus and ripe tannins. The valley’s hot climate makes it ideal for producing powerful red wines, but experimentation in cooler areas in the west is resulting in lighter-style varietal wines, particularly Sauvignon Blanc.
The Colchagua Valley is emerging as the king of Chilean reds, and the regions wineries are demonstrating the quality of wines crafted from Bordeaux-style blends, like those from 115 year-old Carménère vines. The Montes Winery, founded in 1988 by esteemed Chilean winemaker Aurelio Montes and three business partners and located in the region has played a key role in reviving the Chilean wine industry and launching it to the level of international acclaim.