by Fred McMillin
for November 12, 1997

Barefoot in the Andes


  • "Curiously, Chardonnay has not been widely planted in Chile until recently."

    ...Hugh Johnson, "World Atlas of Wine," 4th Ed.

  • "About 1985 Chardonnay began to be planted in Chile at a rate of about 1000 acres a year."

    ...Chilean Government Publication "Chile Now"

  • 1992: "Chilean Chardonnay is now typified by a full-bodied, buttery, fruity style."

    ...Kim Marcus, Wine Spectator

  • 1995: Chilean wine sales to the U.S.A. grew 20% in one year, reaching $40 million. In just a few years Chile has become the third-largest wine exporter to the U.S., lagging behind only France and Italy."

    ...The Wall Street Journal

The Rest of the Story: So, Chardonnay is a major player in Chile's export explosion...and the price is right. My panel just found one for $4.50 that drinks nicely with fish and foul. It's from the Maule (mau-lay) Valley, blessed with "superior viticultural land that ranks among the best in Chile," according to South American specialist Harm de Blij. Furthermore, it has twice the rainfall of competing premium regions to the north, so many vineyards grow without irrigation.

The Wine:
Barefoot Chardonnay, Non-Vintage, Maule Valley, Central Chile
Bottled by Barefoot Cellars, St. Helena, CA
Tasting Notes: Light grapefruit flavors with a touch of oak. Drink it now.
Recommendation: Highly Recommended in its price range.

Postscript:—The names...
The name "Chile" is believed to have come from an Indian word for "snow," of which the Andes Range has plenty. Its Mt. Aconcagua at nearly 23,000 ft. is the highest peak in the Western Hemisphere.

Maule is the name of a town, a river, a wine district, and a government administrative district. It was here that Chi1e declared its independence from Spain on February 12, 1818, long before those Chardonnay vines were planted.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

Read more articles by Fred McMillin in the eGGsf

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