Regional Profile: Maipo Valley, Chile
Where: Maipo is within Chile’s large Central Valley, which is appropriately named as it’s relatively in the center of the country from north to south as well as situated in the valley between the Andes to the east and the Pacific to the west. Maipo is the closest region to Santiago, whose proximity no doubt helped this region grow.
What: In the 19th century, vineyards were planted in Maipo with cuttings brought over from Bordeaux, and grand estates were modeled after Bordelais versions as well. This is why Cabernet Sauvignon is especially popular here, and it also helps explain why Carmenère, an old Bordeaux variety, became so popular in Chile.
Most of Maipo is quite warm, centered inland and mostly away from the cooling influence of the Pacific, yet not as high as the Andes foothills. However, as the region has grown and vineyards have spread farther and wider, Maipo has been broken up into three sub-regions: In the Maipo Alto, some vines are beginning to edge their way up the foothills toward poorer soils and cooler mornings (the sun has to cross over the crest of the Andes before basking these vines in light). Central Maipo is in the middle of the valley, dominated by rocky soils that make for great Cabernet. And Coastal Maipo is closest to the coast, taking advantage of some of the maritime influence that slips over the Coastal Range and into the valley.
With: Pair Maipo Cabernet Sauvignon with any bold red meat, like smoked brisket or a grilled steak. Try the Carmenère with vegetable beef soup or lamb tagine.
Who: Start with the Santa Rita Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon on a weeknight; when you’re ready to see how this region can stack up against Bordeaux, go big and get a bottle of Almaviva, the high-end benchmark red blend made by Chile’s Concha y Toro estate.