Wines of Chile – Maule, Itata, Bio Bio, Malleco
After looking at the Maipo; Aconcagua and Casablanca; and Cachapoal, Colchagua and Curico wine regions of Chile, it is time to finish up this endeavor with an examination of the Maule region and the southern regions of Itata, Bio Bio and Malleco.
Just over 160 miles from Santiago along route 5 is the town of Talca and the heart of the Maule wine region. Most of the land is dedicated to Cabernet Sauvignon, followed by Merlot and then Sauvignon Blanc. Continuing about 15 miles past Talca, past the city of Maule and into the town of San Javier, you can find the Balduzzi Vineyards and Winery. According to the tour section of the website, the vineyards historical park attracts visitors with trees 100 year old trees. Maybe that’s cool in San Javier, but the toursexcite me, especially the one-hour premium tour for only $20 that includes a taste of 9 wines including a grand reserve wine.
Continuing down route 5 in the shadow of the Andes, you’ll come across the town of Chillán in the middle of the Itata Valley. Right near the middle of the city are the Larqui Vineyards where they produce six different wines. The vineyards have diversified into the blueberry business as well, and ship them as far away as “Filadelfia.” I kid because, wow, those blueberries look big and pretty darn tasty.
The Tierra y Fuego winery is also located in the vicinity of Chillán. According to the travel guide, drop-in tours are available and for under $30 you can get a fixed price lunch with all the suitable wine accompaniments. If you want a more organized visit of the Itata Valley, you can enlist a tour guide from the Termas de Chillán resort and take a wine tour, a fly-fishing excursion, a coal mine tour, or just go in the winter for some nice skiing.
Keep driving south down the 5, and just like if you were in California, you’ll eventually end up in Los Angeles, the city at the heart of the Bio Bio (pronounced BEE-o BEE-o) Valley. Three wineries and two vineyards reside in this tougher growing area including the Agustinos Winery that also has a location in the Aconcagua Valley. Once you reach this point, you’re 300 miles from Santiago, so to drive back, just think of it as driving from Los Angeles to San Francisco, if San Francisco’s name translated to “Santiago.”
However, you can keep driving south and you’ll come to the even sparser area of the Malleco Valley. Only one vineyard calls this valley home and has about 42 acres planted in Chardonnay and Pinot Noir varietals. If you want to keep driving and driving, about 660 miles south of Santiago is the city of Puerto Montt and just about the end of Highway 5. You’d have gone beyond all the wine regions by this point and are just exploring in between the Chilean mountain ranges. In Puerto Montt, the temperature doesn’t really go above 70 degrees or much below 40. Why would you want to visit Puerto Montt? Well, it’s the salmon capital of Chile.
So, that ends the exploration of Chile through its wine regions. Looking at the scenes of the various wineries and the Andes makes me want to get down there to relax, hike, drink and explore. Hopefully you feel the same way.
About Jason McClain Jason is an aspiring novelist, which means there is a lot of time to put off writing and watch baseball or go fly-fishing, hiking and traveling. By "a lot of time", Jason means "procrastination."