Chile | Coquimbo
The Coquimbo Region of Chile contains three wine-producing sub regions: Elqui, Limarí and Choapa. The Elqui Valley is located 530km (330 miles) north of the capital Santiago at the southern end of the Atacama Desert. The region's vineyards extend from the Pacific Ocean in the west to the Andes Mountains in the east and rise to an altitude of 2,000 metres above sea-level. Most of the regions viticulture is to be found along the River Elqui valley, where grape-growers have access to high-quality water for irrigation. Traditionally the Elqui Valley focused exclusively on producing Chile's trademark brandy, Pisco, but a new generation of winemakers are producing very good wines from varietals like Sauvignon Blanc and Syrah.
Located 470km (290 miles) north of Santiago the Limarí Valley is both an old and new wine producing region. Vines were first planted in the mid-16th century, but new technology has led terroir-hunting winemakers to take a fresh look at this curious territory. The Pacific Ocean’s cooling Camanchaca fog creeps into the valley from the west each morning and retreats as the sun rises over the Andes and bathes the vines in pure light in the afternoon. With less than 4 inches of rainfall per year, drip irrigation allows the vines to flourish as their roots dig deep into the mineral-rich soil. The combination creates fresh wines with a distinct mineral edge. The area is best known for producing Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay and also successfully produces Syrah and Pinot Noir.
The Choapa Valley lies around 400 km (250 mi) north of Santiago, in the southern part of the Coquimbo Region. It lies within the narrowest part of Chile, where the Andes meet the Coastal Range and consists of two sectors, Illapel and Salamanca. There are no wineries in either of these sectors, but vines planted on the rocky, foothill soils produce small quantities of high quality Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon grapes.