HISTORY OF RUTA DEL VINO
Although the history of wine in Chile is from the colonial era, it was not until a couple of decades ago that the country's wine production became recognized worldwide, especially cabernet sauvignon
It is estimated that the first vine plantings in Chile were done by the Spaniards in La Serena, IV Region, in 1548. The grapes were harvested in 1551 in the Valle de Elqui (Elqui Valley) and Valle de Limarí (Limari Valley), both considered ideal for this crop by the characteristics of its soil, air temperature and water irrigation from the Elqui River. These conditions also produced very sweet grapes, which were then used for the production of aguardientes (spirits), later known as pisco.
It was especially in the Coquimbo region where conditions of the crops were grown optimally, because of its climate with rainy winters and hot summers. Chilean wine became so popular that in the early nineteenth century it was banned in Europe because it was considered as a competitor to the prices of the wines produced in Spain.
However, in the mid-nineteenth century, wine began to be considered as an important source of export earnings and the French Claudio Gay was hired to work on improving the vineyards and scientifically evaluate its quality.
It was Silvestre Ochagavía, around1850, who introduced the malbec, merlot, cabernet sauvignon, pinot, Riesling and Sauvignon Blanc strains to name a few in Chile. This led to other entrepreneurs like Luis Cousiño, José Tomás Urmeneta, Melchor Concha y Toro, for example, who founded their own vineyards, starting a successful winemaking tradition that continues to the present day. On the other hand, Alberto Valdivieso ventured with the export of white strains from the Champagne region in France such as pinotnoir and chardonnay, creating sparkling wine.
Another important milestone was appearance of the phylloxera plague in 1863 in France that spread throughout Europe, damaging much of the strains developed in Europe, Australia, California and South Africa. However, Chilean vineyards remained free of contamination, allowing them to use their strains for the recovery of the industry in the world.
The favorite wine consumed by the people in Chile are the country strains, in varieties such as chicha, which corresponds to fermented grape juice, and the pipeño; raw wine directly from the barrel.
Since the 1980s, companies began to invest in facilities with more technology and new legislations, which began to position the country as an important producer of wines in the international market.
That's why in the mid-90s, at the height of wine companies, began the development of the “Ruta del Vino” (Wine Route) to centralize tourism around wine or wine tourism, offering tours, activities and accommodations, among many other alternatives.