The Maipo Valley is one of Chile's most important wine-producing regions. Located at the northern end of Chile's extensive Central Valley, the region extends eastwards from Santiago, Chile's capital, to the Andes and westward toward the Pacific coast.
Maipo Valley is one of Chile's most important wine-producing regions. Often described as the "Bordeaux of South America," the historic valley is the birthplace of the Chilean wine industry.
This is the home of viticulture in Chile. The first vines were planted around Santiago at the city's birth in the 1540s, but it wasn't until the 1800s that viticulture began to expand significantly.
Today, the Maipo Valley region features over 3,000 ha (7,400 acres) of vineyards, more than half dedicated to producing Cabernet Sauvignon or Cabernet blends. However, many grape varieties are planted here, including Merlot, Syrah, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
Located at the northern end of Chile's extensive Central Valley, the region extends eastwards from Santiago, Chile's capital, to the Andes and westward toward the Pacific coast. It stretches toward the towns and subzones of Padre Hurtado, Peñaflor, Talagante, Isla de Maipo, and Melipilla.
Maipo Valley can be roughly separated into three subregions: Upper Maipo (Alto Maipo), Central Maipo (Maipo Medio), and Lower Maipo (Maipo Bajo).
The Upper Maipo (Alto Maipo) subregion runs along the eastern edge of the Andes Mountains. The mountainous climate strongly influences these foothills, rising from 400 to 800 m (1,300 to 2,600 ft).
At this height, warm sun during the day is followed by colder nights, which slow ripening. This extends the growing season, leading to grapes with a balance of ripeness and acidity.
The area's colluvial soils (brought down from the mountains by water erosion or landslides) are rocky and free-draining. The climate and the poor, porous and rocky soil stress the vines, producing a characteristically bold, elegant Cabernet Sauvignon.
Upper Maipo, which encompasses the subregions of Puente Alto and Pirque, is the most prestigious of the viticultural areas.
The Central Maipo (Maipo Medio) subregion occupies the lower-lying area west of the Upper Maipo subregion, surrounding the towns of Buin and Paine. This is one of the oldest winemaking areas in Chile and was the first part of the Maipo Valley to be settled.
The climate here is the warmest and driest of the three subregions. Here, less rainfall requires the use of drip irrigation. Vineyards are often planted along the Maipo River, an area known for its alluvial soils.
The slightly warmer climate and more clay-based and fertile soils lead to a somewhat less refined style of wine. Cabernet Sauvignon is still the most-grown grape variety, but there are also substantial plantings of Carmenère vines that are well suited to this iconic Chilean grape variety.
Lower Maipo, or Pacific Maipo, is the youngest wine-producing area in the Maipo Valley region and is centered in Isla de Maipo and Talagante. The wine industry here is more concerned with winemaking than viticulture, and while there are a few vineyards, there are many wineries.
Grapes grown in this region benefit from the coastal influence of the Pacific Ocean as well as the alluvial soils also found in the area. As a result, red wines from this subregion have a refreshing, natural acidity from the influence of the ocean.
The vineyards in this area tend to be tucked up against some of the smaller, low-lying hills that rise between the Andes and the Coastal Range to protect them from the harsh winds coming off the coast.
Some viticulture occurs near the river, where cool breezes create mesoclimates suitable for growing white-wine varieties and Cabernet Sauvignon.
Because of the region's coastal influence, Lower Maipo is also a popular place for experimentation with the country's white varieties, most notably Sauvignon Blanc.