The Itata and Curico Valleys are, in general, two of the lesser-known valleys of the country, but it is within these areas that one will find some of the greatest history and diversity.
Nestled between the Bío Bío and Maule Valleys one will find the Itata Valley, one of the oldest wine growing regions in Chile. Complementing its history, however, it boasts a strong balance of both the old and the new.
The classic varieties of Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay, and Merlot dominate across the valley’s alluvial, clay, and sand soils. Interestingly, however, Itata is also home to several hectares of Carignan and Semillon which are making waves in the US especially among exploratory sommeliers. The area is relatively small with just over 630 hectares under vine, but despite its small plantings there is great diversity in the area.
Throughout Itata one will find a healthy amount of ancient bush vines, most of which are dry-farmed and quite small, but alongside these plantings there are also vineyards dominated by newly planted, vertically positioned vines. This combination allows for great potential for exploration.
To the north of Itata, but just 200km South of Santiago, is the Curico Valley, a large, diverse valley with 1,484 hectares under vine. Over 30 different grape varieties can be found here, but most notably are Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, Sauvignon Blanc, and Syrah.
The valley’s modern history begins in the 1970’s when Miguel Torres first explored the area and introduced the first stainless steel tank to Chile. This encouraged a flurry of foreign investment which led to increased plantings and exploration of suitable grape varieties for the area. Curico boasts a Mediterranean climate, though it is shielded from the ocean’s influence by Chile’s coastal range.
Because of this, the conditions on the valley floor and on the Andes Mountains play an important role as the plantings are spread across these areas. Soils are composed of clay, sand, and decomposed granite which, combined with the climate, make it an ideal region for Sauvignon Blanc and powerful red wines.
The Itata and Curico Valleys of Chile are representative of the diversity and terroir-driven exploration that is the hallmark of Chile’s evolving wine industry. Within each valley one will find a different representation of the innovation and openness to new ideas which only adds to the country’s intrigue.