Chile's winemakers are going to extremes to find a greater diversity of terroir, in a quest for enhanced complexity and quality in their white wines. Peter Richards MW, DWWA regional chair for Chile, picks 11 of his top white wines.
- Scroll down to see Peter Richards MW’s 11 Chilean white wines to try
The landscape of Chilean wine is dominated by red. Just 35,841ha (hectares) of Chile’s total vineyard is white, which represents 26% of the overall total 137,592ha. Although the red/ white balance used to be more even in the past, the quality of the whites was often basic: oxidative, raulí wood-aged Central Valley Sauvignonasse was never going to set the world on fire.
Ironically, just as the balance shifted in favour of whites in the 1980s, with the advent of temperature-controlled, hygienic winemaking and the development of cooler climate regions, the world developed a thirst for Chilean reds, especially Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon. One in every three Chilean vines is now Cabernet Sauvignon. Whites have been playing catch-up ever since.
It’s easy to overlook Chilean white wines in favour of its reds. But it’s also a mistake. What the figures don’t show is what attentive drinkers have already noticed – that Chile’s new-wave whites represent a diverse, quality-led and intriguing offering, with the accent increasingly on attributes such as terroir expression, elegance and ageing potential.
Peter Richards MW is the Decanter World Wine Awards regional chair for Chile
Read more in Decanter magazine’s April issue. Editing for Decanter.com by Ellie Douglas.