The region of Coquimbo played a vital role in Chile’s wine making history. It was in 1549 that a Spanish conquistador, Francisco de Aguirre, brought in vine grapes and planted the first ever Vineyard in the valleys of Coquimbo region. With the help of Chile’s Mediterranean style in this region where the sun shines brightly for a long time and elevated temperature, growth and production of wine grapes were made possible.
The Coquimbo region is divided into three sub-regions; the Elqui Valley, the Limary Valley, and the Choapa Valley ” all of which are valleys used for wine production by several vineyards in the area. Coquimbo’s outstanding climate condition, fertile soil and terroir and great irrigation system enable the wine grapes to develop and produce fine vintage wines every year. Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, and Chardonnay are amongst the most suitable grape varieties planted and produced in this region.
The Elqui Valley is nestled at the northernmost part of Chile where sunshine is abundant all year round. The sun’s magic during the day is balanced off with a freezing temperature, mostly during the nights in the region. Elqui Valley is traditionally known as a premier producer of Pisco, Chile’s national non-wine liquor. But new vineyards have been continuously exploring and searching the Valley’s terrains with the suitable climate to grow the grapes. Two of the popular vineyards in the area are Cavas del Valle and Falernia. Currently, the variety of Cabernet Sauvignon dominates all wine grape varieties in this area with over 186 hectares planted to Cabernet Sauvignon variety.
Like the Elqui Valley, the Limari Valley is also a Pisco producer and belongs to both the old and new wine regions. Every morning, the Pacific Ocean, brings cold breeze and foggy atmosphere to this area and moistens the vines in the afternoon. It doesn’t rain much in the area, so drip irrigation permits the vine roots to dig deep into the mineralized soil as the vines develop along with it. This method also helps the wines to develop a distinct mineral edge to it. Cabernet Sauvignon variety is also dominant in this area, occupying 720 hectares of land. Some of the vineyards that are located in the area are Vina Francisco de Aguirre, Maycas del Limari, Ocho Tierras, and Tamaya which produces, Reserva Especial, two premier wines (a red and a white), representing best of Valle de Limari.
The last sub-region of Coquimbo is the Valle de Choapa. This valley has a similar climate condition as that of the Limari Valley with hot and dry weather during daytime and cold breeze temperature during nighttime. This is the narrowest area of all of Coquimbo, and there are no large wineries in this area as of this time. However, vineyards have been built on rocky piedmont soils which produce limited amounts of quality Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah grapes with a low pH-high acidity balance.
Chile’s Coquimbo region may have mountainous regions, but its narrow location is a compensating factor. The vineyards, grapes, and wines are all excellent in Coquimbo as it turns out that the high altitudes are a perfect place for premier wine grapes to develop.
Other Chilean wine articles: