Through the end of the 20th century, Chilean wines were often associated with poor quality, including bad taste and rudimentary winemaking techniques. Outside investment transformed this industry by bringing in better equipment and more effective production techniques to Chile's vineyards.
Today, Chilean wines are known for their versatility and vastly improved taste. Chile's alluvial soil, which is rich in minerals and organic matter, adds unique dimensions of flavor to grapes grown in the region. A long, dry growing season allows grapes to develop slowly over time, bringing out their every nuance. The country's coastal geography also creates big changes in temperature from day to night, which locks in the acidity of the grapes.
In addition to ever-increasing quality, Chilean wines remain surprisingly affordable. In fact, a top-rated bottle by The New York Times in 2007 cost just $9. In 2008, more than 88 percent of Chilean wines in the U.S. sold for less than $10 a bottle, with most priced between $3 and $7. Even as some Chilean vineyards began to focus on premium bottles at a higher price point, average prices for Chilean wines still hovered around $5 per bottle as recently as June 2011.
These low prices persist largely because the region is still considered up-and-coming and can also be attributed to the country's natural winemaking advantages. Vineyards in Chile are among the only wine regions in the world not plagued by phylloxera, a pest that has ravaged other vineyards. The lack of pests, combined with rich soil, largely eliminates the need for pesticides and fertilizers; this means that Chilean wines often cost less to produce than wines in other areas, resulting in a lower price for consumers.
Tempted by the low cost and wide variety of Chilean wines? Read on to learn how to pick the perfect bottle to complement your favorite meals.