This Picturesque Chilean Wine Region Pairs World-Class Reds with Luxurious Digs
The Colchagua region, set within easy striking distance of Santiago, produces some of the world’s finest reds in a beautiful mountains-meet-vineyards setting that’s met by a bevy of luxury resorts.
A lush region of valleys and rolling hills planted with roughly 50,000 acres of vines, where Mediterranean climes prevail, Chile’s Colchagua wine region unfolds roughly two hours south of Santiago, and has long served as a getaway for the city’s well-to-do—with the luxury lodging to match. Here, this new-world haven of immaculate vineyards, framed by forested mountains, has developed a stellar reputation in the wine world for its award-winning reds like cabernet sauvignon, syrah, merlot, malbec, and Chile’s flagship varietal, carménère, as well as crisp whites like sauvignon blanc and chardonnay that are grown closer to the coast.
The region’s relatively secluded location, scenic environs, and exceptional terroir have increasingly captured the imagination of luxury-loving oenophiles, who retreat to the valley’s upscale wine resorts for five-star dining, myriad activities (from embarking on vineyard carriage rides to having a hand at creating personalized wine blends), and, of course, exceptional vino. With the recent unveiling of the Puro Vik retreat this spring (part of the heralded Vik Chile resort), met by an increased appetite for Chilean tourism in recent years, this luscious region is positively ripe for the picking.
What to Drink
Bordered by the Andean foothills to the east and the Chilean Coastal Range to the west, Colchagua forms the southern arm of the Rapel Valley wine region, but its diverse microclimates and varied soils—scattered throughout Colchagua’s smaller valleys like Apalta and Lolol—proved worthy of its own Denomination of Origin (Chile’s wine region designation system). All fed by the Tinguiririca River, plump harvests of richly concentrated, slow-ripened grapes are transformed into powerhouse single-grape varietals and blends.
Today, nearly 20 wineries call Colchagua home, from pioneering family-run operations on historic estancias to modern, experimental upstarts in innovative facilities. Dig in at the roots by discovering some of the valley’s original 19th-century vines at heritage vineyards like Casa Silva, Neyen, and Viu Manent. At Los Vascos, home to septuagenarian old-world vines, perhaps the ultimate endorsement of Colchagua’s fine-wine pedigree can be found: It’s an outpost of the Lafite Rothschild empire (the famed red wine royalty from Bordeaux). From there, branch out to other choice vineyards like the feng shui–inspired Viña Montes, the women-run Viña Las Niñas, or Viña François Lurton, whose head vintner and namesake comes from a respected Bordeaux winemaking clan.
All the vineyards offer the classic tours and tastings (note: some require appointments), with premium upgrades like in-depth enological lectures or private flights of leading vintages. But you can also take part in other activities, too, like horse-drawn carriage rides, cycling, hiking, taking a gondola lift (up the Cerro Chamán hillside at Viña Santa Cruz), or assisting with the grape harvest or inventing your own signature wine blend (at Viña MontGras). The ultimate wine-country memory, though? Booking a private helicopter tour from Santiago or the neighboring coastal city of Viña del Mar that’ll either fly you over the sights or drop you off right in the heart of select vineyards.
Where to Eat
Colchagua’s culinary scene more than holds its own. Renowned Argentine chef Francis Mallmann launched his first Chilean restaurant, Fuegos de Apalta, at Viña Montes in 2017, where his signature fire-roasting cooking techniques are on full display in the glass-walled, vineyard-bound dining room. At winery Viña Viu Manent, meanwhile, Rayuela Wine and Grill specializes in meat-heavy Chilean country fare. Or find Italian-style dishes served up at Ristorante Vino Bello, while Casa Colchagua presents classic Chilean fare with gourmet flair.
Where to Stay
Overlooking the French-inspired Viña Lapostolle winery in central Colchagua’s Apalta Valley (where the family that created Grand Marnier produces some of the region’s premier wines), the Clos Apalta Residence is one of Colchagua’s most exclusive stays and a member of the Relais & Châteaux collection. The decor of its four villas is based on the grape varietals that go into the vineyard’s renowned organic and biodynamic blends, which guests learn about at the futuristic winery, where gravity serves as a guiding force in both the design and wine production process. Posh amenities like private terraces, an infinity pool, and a stellar dining program of seasonal, organic fare, met by wine pairings, complete the experience.
In the neighboring Millahue Valley, Vik Chile has drawn lovers of fine wine, avant-garde architecture, and contemporary art since opening in 2014. Guests of the 22-room hotel—and the seven recently debuted glass bungalows of the resort’s Puro Vik retreat—can spend their days touring its 11,000-acre Viña Vik, a state-of-the-art winery and underground tasting room, as well as luxuriating in the deluxe Wine Spa (wine bath and grape scrub, anyone?) and outdoor infinity pool.
For a taste of small-town life in Chilean wine country, stop in at Santa Cruz, in the heart of the valley, where you can admire the traditional colonial architecture, visit pre-Columbian artifacts at Chile’s largest private museum, and watch local huasos (cowboys) with wide-brimmed hats and colorful ponchos patrol the streets on horseback. A host of rustic-chic stays offer quick access to the town and surrounding wineries, like the modern 26-room Noi Blend hotel and the 11-room Casa de Campo, whose shaded verandas and homey rooms overlook sprawling, verdant lawns. The Casa Silva winery also has a charming seven-room, French country–style boutique hotel on their estate here.
Getting There and Around
From Santiago (home to the nearest airport), it’s a two-and-a-half-hour drive south on Route 5 and Route 90 to Santa Cruz; buses depart from Santiago’s Alameda Terminal throughout the day, as well. For getting around the town and valley, buses and taxis are available, but renting your own car provides the best ease of access; if no one wants to be the designated driver, tours can be arranged by your hotel or with tour operators like Colchagua Wine Tours.