Chile is the fifth largest exporter of wine in the world and the seventh-largest producer.
Grape vines were planted in the north of Chile in the 16th century, in the wake of the Spanish conquistadors. Production expanded rapidly and the country was soon exporting to Peru, challenging imported wines from Spain. The Echenique family, of Basque origin, planted vineyards in the Peralillo area of the Colchagua province around 1750 and in the 19th century, the same family was part of the rapid expansion that took place in Chilean wines, at the initiative of a handful of pioneers who were inspired by the French model. The first French grapes were planted in the Cañeten Valley of Colchagua in 1850 but when phylloxera ravaged Europe’s vineyards, Chile’s production increased dramatically. Vineyards went from 9,000 hectares in 1870 to 40,000 hectares in 1900. The first exports of wines to Europe took place in 1877.
In 1947, production in the Cañeten Valley of the Peralillo region was reorganised and rationalised. Plots of land were cleared and prepared for planting, water supply and storage systems were put in place and cellars equipped with cement tanks were built. The “Cañetenes” wines gradually built up a good reputation. However, the land reform measures which came into force in the late 60s and early 70s put a stop to any further expansion.
Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) took over the Los Vascos estate (Los Vascos meaning The Basques, in honour of its Basque origins) in 1988. At the time, the property extended to some 2,200 hectares, of which 220 hectares were planted with vines. The pioneering ambition of DBR in Chile was above all the result of extensive research into the potential of local wines. Many properties were visited and many wines were tasted before choosing Los Vascos, because of its location near the ocean and its exceptional soil. Along with ideal weather conditions, Los Vascos benefits from intense exposure to the sun, adequate water sources, semi-arid soils and little risk of frost. At an average of 130 m above sea level and at just 40 kilometres from the Pacific Ocean, the microclimate of Viña Los Vascos has everything to produce fine wines.
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