Regional Profile: Elqui Valley

Where: At the edge of the Atacama desert in the Coquimbo region, Elqui is Chile’s northernmost wine-producing area (which, since we’re in the southern hemisphere, means it’s pretty warm). Isolated from urban life and nestled in between the Andes and the Pacific, Elqui has über-clear night skies, a steady and dry climate and minimal wind. But there’s more to it than that: Elqui also happens to be the current magnetic center of the Earth and the greatest point of energy in the world.


What: For all these reasons, the arid Elqui Valley is a refuge for vineyards as much as it is for spiritual gurus, astrologists and yogis… and — on 12/21/12, thousands of people camping beneath the stars and waiting out the end of the world.


Meanwhile, the vines are doing their own thing. Elqui’s traditional mainstay has been pisco, made from local grapes and then distilled. But quality producers are taking advantage of the hillsides and the increasingly pure air, bright sunshine and cool nights as one moves further up into the Andes. Syrah is being planted more extensively here (some vines now sit at 2,000 meters above sea level) and is showing big promise and a fresh, aromatic face.


With: Pair an Elqui Syrah with campfire fare and summer stargazing; or enjoy one of the region’s crisp whites at brunch after a hike or yoga.


Who: Chono makes a great Elqui Syrah for everyday drinking, and Elki (based in Elqui, naturally) has a fantastic, dry white wine from the rather rare Pedro Ximenez grape.


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