Vines arrived in 1554, partly for the celebration of Eucharist in the Catholic Church. Chile is famous for being free of Phylloxera. This is partly due to the fact that in 1830, the government set up The Quinta Normal, a nursery that gave them their own collection of vinifera cuttings before the late 19th century powdery mildew and phylloxera epidemics. The sandy soils also make it difficult for phylloxera to spread. The dry summers tend to yield exceptionally healthy fruit.
Most of the wine production takes place between 32 to 38 latitude, which, in the Northern Hemisphere, would be the same as from Northern Africa to Southern Spain, but the influence of the cold Humboldt current of the Pacific Ocean keeps the country cooler than it otherwise would be.
Most of Chile’s wine comes from the Central Valley, which is separated from the Pacific by a low coastal range (300-800m) and from Argentina to the east for the Andes (6,000m). Irrigation is essential in nearly half of the Chilean vineyards. Vine identification is an underdeveloped science. The majority of what is known as Sauvignon Blanc in Chile is actually Sauvignon Vert (Tocai Fruilano). What is thought to be Merlot is often Carmenere, locally known as Grand Vidure. Chile is considered to be the Bordeaux of South America, with Cabernet Sauvignon being it’s most important variety, but Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, and Chardonnay are also on the rise.