September in Chile is synonymous with festivity. Not only the National Holidays are celebrated, but since 2015 the National Chilean Wine Day is also commemorated. Every September 4th, this date remembers the more than 500 years of wine history in our country.
September is Chilean Wine Month. Not only because our tables are filled with bottles of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenère or Syrah to enjoy at the barbecues of the National Holidays every September 18th. Also, because on September 4th 2015, then-president Michelle Bachelet signed a decree that declared September 4th as National Chilean Wine Day. A date that recognizes the importance, history, and value of Chilean wine as a symbol of national identity. But also, as an export product, if not the most famous, with great presence and recognition worldwide.
Why September 4th?
Because it would have been precisely on 4th September 1545, when Pedro de Valdivia wrote a letter to King Charles V of Spain, asking him to send “vines and wines to evangelize Chile.” “The first vines were brought to Chile by express order of the conqueror Valdivia in 1548, which arrived at the Captaincy General through the port of Coquimbo, establishing the first vineyards in La Serena (1548), Santiago (1551) and later, in Conception (1556). Around 1554, the first grapes in Chile were harvested on Rodrigo de Quiroga’s vineyard in Santiago, on the eastern slope of Cerro Santa Lucia, which would have been enough for two jars of wine to be used for the mass,” says historian Gonzalo Rojas Aguilera, in an essay published in the magazine www.vinifera.cl . The first grape variety would have been Listán Prieto, better known as País.
Shortly after, according to the historian Benjamín Vicuña Mackenna, “wine became our first export item” during the 17th and 18th centuries where characters such as Rodrigo de Quiroga, Rodrigo de Araya and Inés de Suarez were the first winegrowers in the region, until Chile managed to become independent from Spain in 1881. It was then that the history of Chilean wine began to expand, after Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Carmenère, Chardonnay, Merlot, Petit Verdot, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Gewurztraminer grapes were brought from France by Chilean landowners, prior to the phylloxera epidemic that devastated vineyards in Europe at the end of the 19th century.
The legacy of Don Melchor
Among the visionary Chilean winemakers, it is impossible not to mention the figure of Don Melchor de Concha y Toro. He was one of the most influential people in the national wine industry thanks to his contribution, which consisted of bringing vines from Bordeaux and then, in 1883, founding Viña Concha y Toro in the renowned Maipo Valley.
At a time when high-quality Chilean wines were still in their early stages, Don Melchor went further. Thanks to the advice of great French winegrowers, including Jacques Boissenot, he promoted the development of the Puente Alto terroir for Cabernet Sauvignon. Soon, in 1987, the results of this meticulous work came to light with the first harvest of Don Melchor: a wine that contains the legacy of the first years of Chilean viticulture, and was the first to show the world that Chile could produce great wines.
Chilean wine among the best in the world
But this story didn’t stop there. Then, in 1992, the second vintage of Don Melchor (1988) was ranked among the best wines in the world in the ranking of the prestigious Wine Spectator magazine, once again marking a milestone in the history of Chilean wine. A period in which the Carmenère grape was rediscovered in our country, initiating another historical event that would mark the history of wine both nationally and internationally.
Currently, Viña Concha y Toro is one of the most admired wineries in the world, with a presence in more than 130 countries. Some of its brands, such as Don Melchor, Marques de Casa Concha and the iconic Casillero del Diablo, are benchmarks of Chilean wine thanks to the quality and prestige that they have managed to maintain over time. In fact, it is almost impossible to think of Chilean wine without some of these names coming to mind. This is thanks to the important work that this Chilean company has done in its already 140-year history.
For this reason, we invite you to choose your favourite variety and uncork a bottle of Viña Concha y Toro to toast for National Chilean Wine Day. Cheers!