Nestled in the center of the Central Valley are two valleys Colchagua and Cachapoal, that, together, make up the Rapel Valley. While neither currently holds a legal classification, each had made a name for itself as its own entity boasting unique terroir.
The valleys are similar in latitude, but Cachapoal is slightly more northern. The region is known for its red wines that make up 80% of production. The star varieties of the region are Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere, but Merlot, Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, and Syrah are also produced here. Styles are quite diverse due to the variation of soils and climactic influences of the region bordered by the soaring Andes to the East.
Cachapoal has generally warm summer days and summer nights though the climate grows cooler in vineyards higher in the Andes foothills. Soils in Cachapoal are made up of well draining alluvial soils with additions of clay and gravel which are perfect for growing the Bordeaux varieties.
Within the Cachapoal Valley, there are further designated regions, including Peumo, Rancagua, Reguinoa, and Rengo. The cooler areas in the Alto Cachapoal are known for elegant styles of Cabernet Sauvignon while Peumo is home to some of Chile’s best Carmenere wines.
Focus on Peumo: Peumo is a distinct micro-climate in the Cachapoal Valley located near the Coastal Mountain range of Chile. Here, the cool breezes from the Pacific Ocean and maritime soils create a prized, full-bodied, fruit-forward style of Carmenere that is highly sought after.
The Eastern, more southern region of the Rapel Valley, Colchagua, lies closer to the coastal range and the sea. It is largely recognized as the more traditional wine-growing region of the two and is one of the best-known in Chile. This region offers big red wines, 90% of the region’s plantings, made from Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenere, and old vine Malbec. Climates in Colchagua vary, ranging from the Andes foothills to the cooler areas of Marchigue and Lolol which are closer to the Pacific Ocean.
There is a large range of soils here from fertile alluvial soils on the valley floor to sand and decomposed granite on the hillsides; in the west, schist, volcanic sands, and slate can also be found. Some of Chile’s top wineries are located in the Colchagua Valley and take great advantage of the hilly terrain to achieve optimum ripeness. Micro-areas such as Apalta, where Lapostelle’s Clos Apalta and Montes’ Alpha ‘M’ can be found, San Fernando, and Chimbarango offer more significant diurnal differences which help to bring out the character of the wines. Other areas of the region include Nancagua, Santa Cruz, Palmilla, and Peraillo.
Focus on the Central Coast: Colchagua’s coastal area is one of the up-and-coming areas for cool climate varietals. Despite plantings began here less than ten years ago, they are already producing fantastic examples of Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir. The area features soils that are a mix of sand and clay typical of the Coastal Mountains that provide good drainage and are easily permeable so vines can dig deep down.
Many of Chile’s top wineries are located in these two areas, there are twenty-four in the area of Cachapoal and an additional 39 in Colchagua.
As a whole, this is one of Chile’s most iconic red-wine areas. Here, you will find some of the best examples of what Chile has to offer when it comes to Bordeaux-styled blends, and single varietal wines of Carmenere. For anyone that has ever enjoyed a red-wine, this area is highly recommended.