We spend a lot of time talking about how amazing the Italian wine industry is.
And why wouldn’t we?
We’re an Italian wine retailer and we’re proud of the amazing history of wine in our country. But at the same time, focusing so intently on Italian wine does sometimes make us feel like we’re doing a disservice to the amazing wines that come from other countries.
Of course, you have countries like France and Spain, which have wine industries that are just as established and historic as Italy’s own. Then, you have the United States, which is a major player despite being one of the newer kids on the block.
But beyond those major wine producers, you have countries like Chile.
Over the last few decades, Chile’s wine industry has been building a reputation for itself as a source of stunning wines. And we’d be remiss if we didn’t mention that our team has enjoyed more than a few Chilean wines over the years.
So, we thought up an idea for an article.
Wouldn’t it be interesting to compare the Chilean and Italian wine industries to see what makes each one stand out?
We think so!
Let’s take a look at how the two countries stack up against one another so you can see what each has to offer.
Area #1 – Variety
We don’t need to go into a ton of detail about the Italian wine industry and variety here. We’ve talked at length about the many wine territories in Italy and how the country’s unique landscape allows for enormous variety in its wine offering.
But what you may not realise that Chile has plenty of variety of its own.
On the surface, it appears that Chile has a somewhat similar climate to California, which makes it perfectly suited to growing Cabernet grapes. And it’s certainly true that the country is known for cultivating these grapes in high volumes. However, Cabernet is not all that you’ll get out of Chile.
Some areas of the country are far more suited to growing Malbec than Cabernet. And if you explore some of the smaller producers in Chile, you’ll see winemakers experimenting with all sorts of red varietals.
Now, this doesn’t mean Chile can compare with Italy when it comes to the sheer variety of grapes grown and wines produced. But even so, there’s more variety in the Chilean offering than you might expect if you’ve bought into the notion that Chile’s red wines are made using Cabernet and nothing else.
So yes, you will find a lot of Cabernet-based wines if you’re buying Chilean.
But a little extra searching will reveal a whole world of interesting red wine varieties that go far beyond the common Cabernet.
Area #2 – Climate
We touched on this in the previous point but it’s worth expanding on here. By and large, Chile has a fairly regular climate, regardless of where you are in the country. It enjoys warm weather for much of the year, which is one of the reasons why it’s far more renowned for its red wines than it is its white wines. The simple fact is that Chile’s climate makes producing red wines a far more effective strategy for the country’s winemakers.
Contrast that with Italy, where there are enormous differences in climate.
In the north of the country, you have colder temperatures that are more suited to refreshing white wines and hardier varieties of red grapes. This is particularly true in more mountainous regions, where constant climate changes lead to some interesting results for producers.
Venture further south and you start enjoying warmer temperatures that are more in keeping with the climate you might find in Chile. The closer you get to the Mediterranean Sea, the better the climate becomes for certain varieties of grapes, with reds especially feeling the benefit.
When it comes to climate, Chile appears to be more consistent. And of course, this consistency bleeds over into the grapes, which experience fewer weather-related issues. But Italy’s varying climates is one of the things that allows the country to produce such an enormous variety of wines, even if temperatures can create challenges at times.
Area #3 – Value
This is an area where you might expect Italy to run away with things. After all, the country’s industry is so varied that it’s easy to offer great value for money while still keeping a focus on more prestigious wines. No matter what you’re looking for, you’re sure to find it when you buy Italian.
But value is actually an area where Chile excels as well.
In fact, the concept of “value” has long been both a curse and a blessing for the Chilean industry.
On one hand, you have an industry that’s well-known for producing decent wines that people can easily buy for less than €20. If you want a nice wine for dinner without spending too much, Chile is a great place to look.
But on the other hand, this focus on value has led people to the perception that Chile has nothing to offer in terms of high-quality and more prestigious wines.
That simply isn’t the case at all.
Putting aside the “price vs. quality” debate for a moment, there are several producers in Chile who produce wines for the higher end of the market. In fact, of the country’s top 10 wines, only one retails for less than €70. The rest have higher price tags to denote their extra quality.
Whether you’re looking for good value or prestige, you can get it from both Chilean and Italian wine.
Would it be a cop-out to say that there isn’t really a winner here?
It would, wouldn’t it?
In that case, we have to point to the Italian wine industry as the winner due to its long history and the sheer variety of wines that it has to offer.
But this does not mean that Chile doesn’t have plenty of amazing wines to offer.
We’ve seen Chile develop as a wine-producing nation in recent years and we’re looking forward to its continued growth. And who knows? With a few more decades (or centuries) under its belt, we may see Chile competing with Italy at a higher level at some point in the future.