Having only really been a player in the modern global wine market for the last 20 years, Chile is still thought of as a fairly new wine producing country. The truth is, however, that wine has been made in Chile for over four centuries, since the Spanish Conquistadors brought grape vines with them in the mid 1500s.
Chile’s unique geography, with 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—creates a natural isolation that make Chile perfect for wine growing. Together they help maintain healthy conditions and protect vineyards against pests and disease. It is thanks to this that, when the disease Phlloxera virtually wiped out the European grape vines in the late 19th century, vines that had been imported to Chile escaped. And with this diverse geography, the climate varies enormously, with the warm dry summers and cold wet winters that grape vines love.
Now Chile grows a whole range of grape varieties. Carmenere is the signature grape, with distant origins in the Medoc, but many other varieties are grown, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, Syrah, Chardonnay, Viognier and Sauvignon Blanc.
Chile’s Mediterranean climate features the warm, dry summers and cold, rainy winters that vines love. Also, being situated between the sea and the Andes gives a growing season of bright sunny days and temperatures that fall dramatically each night to create the wide daily temperature fluctuation that wine grapes need to develop fresh fruit flavors, crisp acidity, and in the case of red wines, ripe tannins, deep colour, and rich, full flavours. So much so that this is where Baron Phillipe de Rothschild took his skill from Bordeaux to make Escudo Rojo, the Spanish translation of the family name.
Santa Luz, in the Colchagua valley, was established by Luis Felipe Edwards, who first bought the estate in 1936. Since then, the Edwards family has been carefully tending and improving the vines, some of which are 70 years old, and are producing top-quality wines. Today, the estate has grown substantially, from its original plantings of 148 acres to 984. These, along with additional estate vineyards aquired in the Leyda and Maule valleys, give them 4,571.5 acres of estate vineyards in total. Each have ideal climate and soils for different varieties. And with long-term contracts with growers in Casablanca and Maipo, they make a whole range of single variety wines.
The Santa Luz Alba range of wines are a stunning example of well made single variety wines that don’t cost the earth. The grapes for these come mainly from one of their first vineyards in the Colchagua valley. Each of the Alba wines is carefully crafted to bring forward the fruit in each variety making them very easy to drink, perfect on their own or with a variety of foods. From the light, zesty Sauvignon Blanc, the full, rich Chardonnay and the delightful summery Rose, to the fruity Cabernet Sauvignon and soft Merlot, each of these wines is an absolute pleasure.