Vineyards in France, Italy and California have long served as some of the world's top wine producers. While these and other traditional winemaking regions have become synonymous with great vino, some of the most celebrated bottles now come from a place you probably don't associate with fine wine: Chile. After years of mostly domestic sales, as of March 2011, the country is one of the top 10 wine exporters in the world.
Chile's topography makes it the perfect locale for wine production. The country's more than 800 miles of coastline nestled between the Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean protect its grapevines from pests that plague other parts of the world. Melting snow from the Andes flows into Chile's wine-growing areas, providing vital irrigation despite a relatively dry climate, and interestingly, many of Chile's vineyards were started using vines imported from France.
So how did French grapes reach a South American country that was settled by the Spanish? Read on to learn about the origins and current state of Chile's wine industry.