The best in South American wine tasting

When great wine producing countries spring to mind, you'll probably start with France and Italy. But what about South America? Home to some fantastic wines, you can be sure of distinctive flavours and excellent food to match. 

Wine tourism is taking hold in South America, and and wine harvests generally take place in March and April. Why not plan a trip, where you can combine your many great loves in one place?

Here's where to go, what to drink and how it all came about:

Chile
Chilean wines are popular exports, and its most famous variety is Carménère, which had it chance to shine after the source vines in Bordeaux all but disappeared in their native France. In Chile the variety continues to be strong, and great efforts are made by the Chilean government to protect Chilean agriculture, including the wine industry.

But don't stop there, because Chile also produces prize-winning Cabernet Sauvingon, Merlot, Syrah and other varieties. Although its mainly known for red, you'll also get a quality white including Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Riesling, and even a small quantity of Gewürtztraminer. Blends and sparkling wines are also taking hold in Chile.

A good day out would be to focus on the Colchagua, Maule and Maipo valleys, which are not far from Santiago, though valleys north and south of the capital city are also popular.

Brazil
Although you are more likely to want to try cachaça, the grain-alcohol that forms the base of the Brazil's signature caipirinha, you might also want to give the wiens a try. Several states in this vast country produce wines, including Rio Grande do Sul, Paraná, Santa Catarina, Mato Grosso, Minas Gerais, Bahia, Pernambuco and São Paulo, though the Serra Gaucha, north of Porto Alegre is one of the most commonly-visited.

Venezuela
If you didn't know better, you might assume Venezuela is too close to the equator to grow wine grapes. But it all comes down to altitude, and the favourable conditions include daily fluctuations in temperature and good soil drainage.

The area produces two harvests per year, in September and March. You'll find six varieties of red grapes and five of white grapes, with hopes to expand the market, because although wine drinking is increasing in Venezuela, people are more used to drinking spirits and other beverages.

Bolivia
Although it's not renowned for its wine, serious purveyors of the hard-to-find won’t want to miss Bolivia's wines. The fruit is grown at a daring 5,600 to 9,200 feet above sea level, while grapes in South America are normally grown between 2,000 and 3,000 feet.

Near the municipality of Tarija, you can find wines produced by Campos de Solana, for example, whose offerings include Cabernet Sauvingon and Riesling. As in Peru, much of the wine crop is destined to the national spirit, which in this case is Singani.

Ecuador
Ecuador actually imports quite a bit of wine from Chile, but it does produce its own as well, with grapes grown at 8,000 feet above sea level. During the day, temperatures are spring-like, and nighttime temperatures drop, which increases the grape’s sugar content, and makes for good wine.

Stop by  Estancia Chaupi, where they produce Chardonnay, Palomino, Palomino Fino and Meritage wines. The vineyard is located about 6 miles south of the Equatorial line and in the foothills of the Andes in the Yaruqui valley. Ecuador also produces a sparkling wine and several fruit “wines” which are not technically wines since they are not made from grapes.

Have you been on a wine tasting trip to South America? Tell us about it in the comments section below. Or head to twitter and Facebook to upload pics and stories. 

If you'd like to tread this trail for yourself, why not take a look through all our trips to South America. Order a free brochure and sign up to the monthly eNews for competitions, deals and more.

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