Hello wine lovers! I’m Mei Li, an avid travel lover, and a member of the LocalAventura team; I manage our blog, social media, and newsletter. I had the great privilege to explore wineries in Santiago with the expert guidance of our Local Guide Patricia! As someone who enjoys wine but knows next to nothing about the process of making it, I had a lot to learn. Luckily for me, Patricia is a fountain of information; pair this with her knack for storytelling, and I really hit the jackpot!
What she taught me is more than enough to show off at the next cocktail party I attend. I learned about everything from information about the barrels (most wineries use French or American; the difference is in the porousness of the worod) to juicy history about the wine world: revolutionary owners determined to break the mold, Carmenêre that was mistaken for Merlot for years before its “rediscovery” in 1994, and much more!
Did you know that the quality of the wine is 80% determined by the grapes and 20% by the oenologist (from the Greek word Oenology, the study of wines)? I certainly didn’t before this trip. Patricia showed me three distinct wineries, chosen on the basis of three criteria: quality, unique character, and boutique status. In concert, Bodegas RE, Loma Larga, and Casa Marín showcase not only the diversity but also the nuances of Chilean wine production.
Our first stop was Bodegas RE, a cutting-edge and highly experimental winery using their imaginative innovation to create blends. You won’t find their wines anywhere else! RE embodies the spirit of the vineyard as it refers to renacer//to be reborn, redescubrir//to rediscover, recrear//to create again, reinventar//to reinvent, and revelar//to reveal.
A pioneer in modern elegance, Bodegas RE has proven time and again that their unusual and creative hybrid wines tap into the best of both parts. For instance, the RE Syragnan combines Syrah and Carignan while RE Syranoir mixes Syrah and Pinot Noir.
In some cases, the two vines are grafted onto the same trunk, and each element of their maturation process is calculated to produce the highest quality wine possible. Down to the direction the vine faces (facing west means the vine will receive more heat since it benefits from the afternoon sun).
Playful and clever, the oenologists of Bodegas RE demonstrate their deft knowledge by creating surprising and innovative products, shaking up conceptions of what wine should or should not be.
Dating back to the XIX Century, Loma Larga began as a family ranch; to this day, it remains a family business. After a ride down a bumpy lane, we drove up to the main building of the vineyard. I felt as if I had stumbled upon a page out of a fairytale! A small yellow building with a terra cotta roof gave way to an open and welcoming patio.
To the left, there was an iron trellis surrounded by a small flower garden; I could imagine it lush with flowers and vines in the summertime. A stone bench welcomed visitors, and just beyond that, there was an old grape press taller than I was, made entirely of wood and held together with steel braces.
Ale greeted us and showed us around, pointing out the fruit trees along the way to the wine cellar. She explained that Loma Larga has two specialties: Cabernet Franc and Malbec. Neither Cabernet Franc, generally considered the father of Cabernet Sauvignon (a cross between Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc) nor Malbec had been grown in the Casablanca Valley, but after 5 years of research, the oenologists at Lomo Larga had confidence that their avant-garde idea would be successful. And it was!
Both local and international critics praised the fruits of the experiment, noting that cool climate red wines produced fewer tannins and created a less acidic product. This unique vineyard uses only grapes that are grown on the very same property. Their revolutionary decisions pushed beyond limiting conceptions to prove that Casablanca Valley has so much more to offer!
Our last stop along our wine road trip was Casa Marín. As we drove up to the winery, I felt like I had arrived at a castle! The main tower overlooks a sweeping cobblestone terrace surrounded by a porch with open, natural wooden beams. We toured the winery in the flow of the afternoon sun that illuminated the beautiful wooden tables and display shelves.
After getting a degree in agronomy and winemaking from The University of Chile (she was the first woman to do so!), María Luz Marín decided to establish her vineyard in Lo Abarca. Señora Marín faced two daunting challenges: firstly, she was a woman in an industry dominated by men, and secondly, she elected an area mostly dedicated to growing eucalyptus and pine trees to start her winery, a terrain generally considered unsuitable for growing grapevines.
Despite these obstacles, María Luz Marín established a hugely successful winery. Her perseverance paid off: today Casa Marín has been awarded the prize for the best Sauvignon Blanc in the world not once, but twice! Today the vineyard is known for high quality, high-value wines.
After Patricia showed me these three vineyards, my whole perception of the wine world changed! There’s so much going on behind the scenes; so much goes into each bottle of wine, and no two vineyards are the same! Patricia’s excellent choice of wineries showcased the diversity and creativity within the wine world.
I couldn’t have picked a better person to guide me as I discovered the wine world! Patricia’s explanations were clear and helpful, not overly burdened by jargon a beginner like me wouldn’t understand. But even within these “Wine 101” explanations, Patricia’s expertise shone through!
I love it the most when I first wake up, look through the window and I see the Andes Mountains, the sacred mountain for the Incas, El Plomo, the highest in front of Santiago. Also, I love that I can find everything in this city, all kind of neighborhoods: cultural and bohemian such as Lastarria, Bellavista, Yungay, Barrio Italia, Huemul, Brasil.
I love the cultural activity, the amazing Museo del Arte Precolombino (Museum of Pre-columbian art), and the art museum of Salvador Allende both are hidden art treasures. Also if you love trekking you can go to San Cristobal hill, and if you love the wine and food you can find amazing restaurants with awesome Chilean wines.
I write now in wine color. I fell in love in wine in 2010, when I began to work at a winery, “Almaviva”, a joint venture between Concha y Toro winery (the largest of Chile) and Barón Philippe the Rotchield (a highly recognized French winery). There I discovered and learned about wine production. The secrets of the winemakers, the different styles, how complicated is to produce a wine of excellence, differences between barrels, different kind and families of yeast used in the winemaking process, vines, the number of clusters per vine to obtain a great wine, how old the vine must be to produce a high-quality grape, and temperature in all the wine process. It’s a whole world to be discovered, and you will never ever finish learning about it.
Yes. If you feel different from the rest, if most people tell you that you have crazy ideas, if you believe in yourself from your heart, and you are sure you will succeed even when everybody is telling you the contrary, then you are one of us, a real entrepreneur that believes in your projects and dreams.
The first step to becoming a happy person is to love your job since we spend most of the time working. I love tourism because it is alive: you always find new places, new challenges, new ideas; recently I’m beginning to work with sustainable tourism. What I love the most about my job is that I contribute to people’s happiness and to enjoying life! I love to give them a real-life experience, something that they will remember forever.
Ready to try those delicious wines and visit the best wineries in Santiago de Chile? Book one of our many tours in the area! And if you have any questions about the experience, we’re here to help.