Maule is Chile’s largest winegrowing region, with over 31 thousand hectares under vine, and is also one of country’s oldest and most diverse valleys. As new traditions mix with the old, it is common to see vineyards full of old bush vines that were once Pais, the mission grape of Chile, revamped by more boutique wineries either by grafting new varieties onto the old rootstocks or by replanting new varieties in the vineyards.
Being so large, the region offers distinctive microclimates for both red and white wines, though it is best known for its powerful Cabernet Sauvignon and aromatic and spicy Carmenere wines. Overall, the soils are rich, volcanic soils, though certain areas of the valley have varying soil types. For example the area of Empedrado is dominated by slate soils.
The Maule Valley is dry and sunny and has a low annual rainfall of 28 inches, but the nights can be very cool. As a result, the grapes have a long growing season which allows for optimum ripening. Maule’s climate is not influenced by the Pacific Ocean, but the region relies heavily upon another body of water, the Maule River. It runs north-south throughout the valley from Laguna del Maule near Argentina to the Pacific Ocean; most of the vineyards in Maule are planted along its banks and it also adds to the varying microclimates found throughout the region.
Despite having a long winemaking history, the Maule valley is still very much developing and has seen many innovations in winemaking in just the past few years thanks to new technologies and technologically advanced analysis of the areas soils. This, combined with the resurgence of traditional techniques such as dry-farming and the use of old vine Carignan, have vastly improved the quality of the wines produced in the Maule Valley.
Along with this, Vigno, a specialty group focused on the production of old vine Carignan, developed amongst the vintners to control quality and provide a support system for one another. Despite being just a few couple years old, they have already made international headlines.
Within Maule there are five subzones: Talca, San Clemente, San Javier, Parral, Linares, and Cauquenes, each of which offers something unique. Talca is home to the University of Talca which is famed for its prestigious viticultural department. Cauquenes is the area of Maule bestknown for dry-farmed, bush vines primarily of Carignan resulting in concentrated, flavorful wines
There are many wineries in Maule, but of particular note are O. Fournier, Gillmore, J. Bouchon, Calina, Via Wine Group, Hugo Casanova, and Carta Vieja.
Although Maule is one of the oldest regions in Chile, it is very is still developing and is just beginning to showcase its full potential. Traditionally, the region was once known for its production of bulk wines, but as is evidenced by the past few years, high education levels, and use of innovative techniques, both new and traditional, have allowed Maule to showcase its true potential.