Chile is a very elongated but relatively narrow country of 3125 miles long and 56 to 250 miles wide (5,000 km long and 90 to 400 km wide), nestling at the foot of the Andes mountains. Grapes are grown here over some 875 miles (1400 km) between the 27th and 39th parallels. An assortment of different soil types and microclimates ensure quite a degree of diversity in the types of wine.
Chile's climate is similar to the Mediterranean with damp winters and spring and a dry summer. Chile is blessed with perfect conditions for quality wines with a fairly marked difference between day and night time temperatures, lots of hours of sunshine, and fairly high humidity from the nearby ocean.
Chilean wine was in a state of almost medieval lethargy until some years ago, following a surge in quality in the nineteenth century as a result of the arrival of European immigrants. Wine-growing was started by the Conquistadors. The same out-dated methods to make and keep wine had been used for centuries and these were far from hygienic. This changed radically in the late 1970s when the Spanish firm of Torres were the first to establish themselves in Chile. The vineyards were cleaned out and new vines planted while the winemaking equipment was either extensively renovated or totally replaced by ultra modern equipment. The old and often dirty wine vats were replaced with small barriques of new wood. Despite this it was surprisingly long before modern Chilean wines reached Europe.
Names such as Villard, Santa Rita, Torres, Errazuriz, and Santa Carolina were the first to do so. Exports only got going in a big way in the 1990s. Big companies like Torres and Concha y Toro (Spain), Lafite Rothschild, Marnier Lapostelle, Pernod Ricard, Larose Trintaudon, Bruno Prats of Cos d'Estournel, and Mouton Rothschild (France) and Mondavi of California are still investing millions of dollars in the Chilean wine industry.