The area of San Antonio was once primarily a shipping port known for its seafood, not produce, but in recent years, the valley has made itself known as one of Chile’s most expressive cool climate wine regions.
Until 1998, it was believed that there was no available water source for irrigation. However, once a source was discovered in the Leyda sector of San Antonio, there was no looking back. The valley’s first vintage wine, a Pinot Noir, was released in 2001 and the area was officially named a quality wine region just ten years ago in 2002.
San Antonio Valley is further divided into sectors Leyda, Lo Abarca, Rosario, Malvilla, Cartegena, and Lleoleo. Of these Leyda is the best known, largely due to the source of irrigation, and its name has become almost synonymous with San Antonio.
Its proximity to the ocean and thin, rocky soils comprised of decomposed granite and red clay offer perfect growing conditions for Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, and Pinot Noir, and more recently Syrah. San Antonio also grows small plantings of Riesling and Gewurztraminer which are not common in the rest of Chile, but show great potential in this area.
San Antonio has the coolest climate of all the coastal regions in Chile and has several plantings within site of the ocean at just 5km inland. This contributes to the region’s signature style of crisp, mineral driven white wines and concentrated red wines both of which boast high levels of acidity and strong aromatic components. Unfortunately, this does not come without risk. Because of San Antonio’s proximity to the ocean, the area is known for high winds, fog, and humidity. As a result, the area is more susceptible to frost and rot than other areas. Conversely, the wind, fog, and mist play an important part in keeping the grapes cool which is important for the development of the defining character found in the wines of San Antonio.
Within the San Antonio valley, there are four main wineries including Matetic, Casa Marin, Amaral, Leyda, and Amayna and two main vineyard sites for Leyda and Amayna wineries. These wineries are largely responsible for the production of some of Chile’s finest cool-climate varietal wines. However, many other wineries source fruit from the region and this is becoming increasingly popular.
Despite the fact the valley’s winemaking culture is still largely in its infancy, the wines of San Antonio Valley have captured the hearts and palates of even the toughest wine critics. Their elegance and finesse for which the region’s top varieties are known are further enhanced by the influence of the unique terroir resulting in an expression that is distinctly Chilean.