Anthony Rose: All the fruit – and cheaper

When the Spanish winemaker Miguel Torres first declared Chile to be a viticultural paradise back in the late 1970s, the world sat up and took notice. Indeed, with its natural advantages of constant sunshine and irrigation from the melted snow of the Andes, why shouldn't the grape flourish?

We soon found that this South American nation could deliver every bit as much fruit from the classic French varieties of chardonnay, sauvignon blanc, merlot and cabernet sauvignon as Australia or California. And it was cheaper.

But despite one or two great reds, it looked as though Chile had become becalmed in the doldrums of excessive supermarket own-label wines and a host of pleasant, bland, wine brands. Then Chile woke up to the fact that a fresh focus was needed and new wine frontiers opened: the San Antonio and Leyda Valleys by the Pacific for a new breed of elegant dry whites and syrah, Limarí, for burgundian-style chardonnay and Elqui in the far north for crisp, minerally whites and northern Rhône-like syrah.

The dynamic activity of the past decade has brought a welcome transformation of Chilean wine quality.

Read Anthony Rose's guide to wine in 2008 in the Magazine on Saturday