Facing the Devil in Chile’s Maipo Valley Vineyards
It’s not often you come face-to-face with the devil, but I did in Chile’s Maipo Valley wine region.
Let me back up. I have been fortunate enough to visit many of the world’s top wine regions-Tuscany in Italy, Napa in California, and Australia’s Hunter Valley–but if I had to choose a continent’s wine that always appeals to my palette it would be South America. I have a weakness for the spicy, bold reds from Argentina and Chile and I was thrilled to finally visit the famous Maipo Valley vineyard when I visited Santiago, Chile.
Chile is such a unique and interesting country and it’s wine is no different. It’s geography alone is mindblowing–2700 miles long and only 220 miles wide, it has the longest coastline of any country worldwide. The temperate climate of Central and Southern Chile is perfect for wine making, coupled with the fertile land situated between coast and mountains. The Maipo Valley is arguably the most famous wine region in Chile and is only a short bus ride south of its capital city.
Now, back to the devil at hand. My husband and I drink wine often at home and usually have our mini wine fridge stocked with at least a few bottles of Concha y Toro’s Casillero del Diablo, or “the devi’s castle.” We make jokes when deciding what wine to drink and refer to it as “the devil.” So visiting Concha y Toro was a must-do for us when we traveled to Chile.
We took a short train ride south of the city and caught a bus that whipped us around some very windy roads before we were dropped off outside the Concha y Toro compound. Reservations for wine tours are a must, though there was a small restaurant and gift shop that you could easily stop and sip without the full tour. However, if you came this far to meet the devil you should go all the way.
We were first given a walking tour of the vineyard grounds, including a history of wine in region and of the founding family and their late 19th century home. We visited Chile in August, which is the winter time, and the bare vines stretched far across the valley and only stopped because of the mountains. We saw many different grape varietals and had the chance to sip a few outdoors.
Our tour then took a turn. Gone were the sunny hills and vineyard and instead we were told of the devil who lives in the wine cellar. We decided we were brave enough to face this demon and were herded into a natural cellar built underground. It was there we had a glimpse of “el diablo” himself.
After facing our fears we had a nice cheese and wine pairing with a group of tourists from all over the world. It was the best part of the day, sipping vino and nibbling on cheese while sharing traveling tips with one another. That’s always my favorite part of traveling abroad, meeting others from around the world and sharing stories about our journeys.
The evil of the place came upon us when we were let loose in the retail shop. The wine is obscenely inexpensive compared to Napa back home and our logical decision was to buy as much as we could while in Chile to save money back in the United States. With a packed bag of vino we finally left the devil to his devices and brought our treasure back home–where it didn’t last long. I guess we’ll just have to go back.