Chile is one of the world's leading exporters of fresh fruit, so it's no surprise to find it grows outstanding wine grapes as well. Every aspect of Chile's unique geography boosts the quality potential of its wines. The nation stretches just as far north to south as the USA does east to west, but it's no more than 100 miles across at its widest point. Chilean vineyards are sandwiched between the cold depths of the Pacific on one side and the snow-capped Andes mountains on the other. Not only do these dueling cooling influences provide refrigeration to preserve fruit freshness, but they act as natural barriers to vineyard pests and diseases.
Chile is the only major wine-growing country on earth where grapevines can be planted without first being grafted onto insect-resistant rootstocks. Ungrafted vines are happier and healthier, and are prized by winemakers for the quality of their fruit, as with the carmenere grapes that make this delightfully bright and smoky midweight red wine. This uncommonly fragrant grape is a close relation of both merlot and cabernet franc from France's Bordeaux region, but is now grown only in the coastal valleys of Chile and has become a local specialty.