In the Colchagua

Chilling out in Chile's premier wine valley

With over 30 top class wineries specializing in world famous reds, the Colchagua is a top destination for connoisseurs and amateur wine fanciers.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011 Category: Tourism
A vineyard in the spectacular Colchagua Valley. (Photo: T. Chen/Flickr) A vineyard in the spectacular Colchagua Valley. (Photo: T. Chen/Flickr)

The Colchagua Valley in Chile's O’Higgins Region is home to more than 30 wineries, including some of the country's finest.

Specializing in red wines, the valley is famous for its Malbec, Syrah, Cabernet and Carmenere varieties which lure thousands of tourists from around the world to the region each year.

A short drive south of Santiago, Wine Enthusiast magazine's 2005 Wine Region of the World is easy to get to but difficult to leave.

Three must-visit wineries

Casa Lapostolle: Founded in 1994, Casa Lapostolle combines French expertise with the valley's perfect growing conditions to produce world class wines. In 2008 its iconic Clos Apalta wine came in at number one on Wine Spectator's list of the Top 100 most exciting wines in the world. The premier wine is produced in a dedicated six-storey facility with a stunning spiral staircase that is well worth touring.

Montes: The world famous Montes winery hosts a state-of-the-art wine cellar that was built in 2004 and designed by Chilean architect Samuel Claro. Montes has a particular focus on environmentally-friendly wine production, employing sustainable pest control methods and rainwater harvesting for irrigation. It has also begun printing its newsletter on 100 percent recycled paper.

Casa Silva: Dating back to 1892, the cellars at Casa Silva are some of the oldest in the Colchagua Valley. For many years, this estate produced wines for other labels but in 1997 it established its own brand of export wines. Now every wine variety produced at Casa Silva must be tested by a five-person tasting panel before it is approved. A grand old home on the property has been converted into a boutique seven-room hotel with a restaurant and an excellent wine bar.

Other attractions

The Wine Train: There are few better ways to take in the sights of the Colchagua Valley than on board the Wine Train. Drawn by a vintage steam locomotive, the train covers a 35 mile (56km) stretch of track between the city of San Fernando and Peralillo. Highlights along the way include traditional folklore presentations, a winery tour and a traditional criollo lunch. During the course of the 12 hour journey, passengers are able to sample some of the region’s most famous wines and cheeses. The Wine Train departs every Saturday morning from San Fernando station at 8.30am.

San José del Carmen de El Huique Museum: This 19th century ranch homestead in the town of Santa Cruz gives a rare insight into the lives of Chile's former rural elite. One of the only fully-preserved heritage estates in the country, the stately home was converted into a museum in the 1990s. On display is an enviable collection of original furniture, furnishings and intricate ornaments made of opal glass and bone china, while stern family portraits stare down at guests from the walls. Next to the house is a small chapel where mass is held every Sunday morning. Tours of the museum in English and Spanish must be booked in advance.

Walking, cycling and riding: For those who want a more active experience in the Colchagua Valley, there are plenty of opportunities to burn off some of the calories with a spot of exercise. The Viña Viu Manent winery hires bicycles, Montes now has a botanical hiking trail and there are plenty of places that offer horesback riding throughout the valley, including Hacienda Lolol and La Punta del Viento.