Press & News
Why You Should Visit Chile’s Old World Wineries Outside Modern Santiago
Flights departing Santiago for the United States are usually in the late evening between 10 PM and midnight. With hotels demanding check-out typically at noon, night departures leave travelers in a conundrum to pack bags, don their airplane clothes, yet make good use of their time. Fortunately for wine lovers, two of Chile’s oldest wineries sit just outside the city, conveniently accessed by metro or taxi or on the way to the airport.
How can this be? Because depending on who you ask, the Maipo Valley surrounds Santiago, or Santiago sits in the center of the Maipo Valley. Either way, both are located between two mountain ranges: the Andes and the Coastal Range, a setting that delivers excellent conditions for grape cultivation. While it may be a coincidence to have some of the finest red wine terroir in Chile near the city (founded in 1541), it’s also good fortune since proximity to the capital has served to reduce logistical burdens of moving wine to market, consequently boosting growth in the industry.
Viña Santa Carolina
Winner of Wine Enthusiast’s New World Winery of the Year in 2015, this property is actually quite old–even by European standards–at over 140 years. Founded in 1875 by Luis Pereyra Cotapos, he named the winery after his wife, Carolina Iñiguez, and hired a French oenologist to make high-quality Chilean wine. It met with acclaim relatively quickly, receiving its first acknowledgment by the French wine community as early as 1889 when the Reserva de Familia Cabernet Sauvignon was awarded a gold medal in the “Exposition Universelle” of Paris. Architecturally, the prize of the property remains the cellar, built in 1877. The cavernous brick-lined space has been recognized as a national monument and testifies to the winery’s enduring relevance.
Today, the property has a strong focus on reds, given its location in the Maipo Valley and vineyards in Cachapoal and Colchagua, although they do make whites from the cooler valleys of Casablanca and Leyda near the coast.
In 2010, a devastating earthquake rattled a large part of the central and south areas of Chile and damaged sections of Viña Santa Carolina’s facilities in Santiago. However, the winery and management teams turned tragedy into triumph. The quake revealed a secret room beneath the stairs of the underground cellar in which 7000 bottles of vintages from the 50s, 60s, and 70s had been sequestered and forgotten.
Examination of the fitness and character of the wines, in conjunction with old books and recovered documents, inspired the winery to create a new product in deference to a successful historical style. Launched in 2012, and named after Santa Carolina’s founder Luis Pereira, the Cabernet Sauvignon blended from top grapes, offers a more restrained, elegant palate with less alcohol than its contemporaries.
Guided tours are available Monday through Friday at 10 AM, 11:30 AM, 3 PM, and 4:30 PM and consist of a visit to the winery, parks and gardens, the colonial estate house, the cellars, and finish with a tasting of three wines near the wine shop (in case you want to grab a bottle to take home). The visit takes 45 minutes and costs around $18. To book, email [email protected] with the date and time of your choice and number of visitors.
Address Til Til 2228, Macul, Santiago, near the Rodrigo de Araya metro station on line 5.
Wines to Buy Luis Pereira Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, Herencia Carmenère 2010, Sauvignon Blanc Reserva Leyda Estate 2016.
Not just a historic viña, its wines stylistically reflect an old-world sensibility–which seems logical given grapes have been cultivated around Macul since the late 1500s. The current owners–the Cousiño family–acquired the property in 1856 by way of Luis Cousiño. Today, sixth and seventh generation family members run the business, and, like their predecessors, they have put their own stamp on the wines.
The winery building was designed by a French architect firm in 1870. Located in the center of the estate, it was built using bricks and limestone bonded with a mixture of sand and egg white—a long-vanished technique that produced lasting structures. Seven meters deep with double walls where air flow circulates to create a passive ventilation system, the cellar maintains an optimal temperature and humidity for aging wine in barrels. The phrase “they don’t make them like they used to” comes to mind.
Because of the location of its vineyards in Maipo and Alto Maipo, Cousiño-Macul also focuses predominantly on red wines at over 60 percent of total production. The main black varieties are the typical Bordeaux grapes plus Syrah, with whites made from Chardonnay, Sauvignon Gris, Sauvignon Blanc, and Riesling. Rather than make an entry-level wine, the family decided to skip that tier and focus on mid- and higher-end wines, from the Isidora line (which includes the excellent Sauvignon Gris) up to the icon bottle “Lota.”
Viña Cousiño-Macul stands out not just for the quality of its wines and its legacy in the industry, but also for its unique take on a property tour. While it’s possible to reserve a conventional visit to the cellars, concluding with a wine tasting (they offer a regular and deluxe version), visitors should consider booking the bike trip through 80-year-old vines. Not only does this excursion give a different perspective, especially given the proximity of the vines to an urban landscape, but it also offers riders a chance to burn off energy before the overnight flight back to the States. Tours are by appointment and can be booked online.
Address: Av. Quilín 7100 Peñalolén, Santiago, 2 km from the Quilín Metro station, then bus or taxi
Wines to Buy Isidora Sauvignon Gris 2015, Antiguas Reservas Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, Finis Terrae 2012
Where to Stay in Santiago
The Singular Santiago Lastarria Hotel
Book a room at this boutique hotel tucked along a charming street downtown. Design cues draw from early 20th century buildings and neoclassical French architecture. The hotel sits next to notable bars and restaurants but boasts its own fine dining room showcasing regional foods complemented by one of the city’s best Chilean wine lists. The highlight of the hotel, however, may be the roof top bar. Offering a sophisticated cocktail program, grab a seat inside the sleek lounge or on the outdoor patio for views of the Parque Forestal at sunset. A small pool invites guests for a dip on hot days. It’s the ideal hotel for visitors saddled with a late evening flight: have dinner, a drink, or even visit the spa; therapists work until 9 PM, allowing for one final massage before the dreaded flight home.