Between them, these four valleys produce most of Chile's fine wine and, owing to low domestic consumption, about three-quarters of this finds its way onto the export market.
For nigh on 20 years Chile, and especially the Central Valley, has provided good everyday wine at a reasonable price and the UK and USA have welcomed it with open arms and tingling tastebuds. This remains the case to this day, but in recent years the Maipo and Rapel Valleys in particular have taken a step up in quality. The red wines are highly regarded, though the whites are often excellent too.
Old World favourites abound, especially those from Bordeaux, for Chile as a nation was strongly influenced by France in the nineteenth century. Cabernet Sauvignon is the most successful and popular vine and is joined by Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir, Merlot and Semillon. Torrontés, more often associated with Argentina, also has a presence and so does Zinfandel. País is a locally popular grape of no great merit that remains widespread in the Maule Valley.
Carmenère is a nationally and regionally important vine. Once thought to be Merlot, it was recently revealed as a quite distinct variety of grape. It is also a native of Bordeaux, but unlike Merlot has become virtually extinct in its homeland. Happily, it is thriving in its adopted Chile.
Wedged between the Andes and the Pacific Ocean, both of these immense natural features are vital to the vines of the Central Valley. Snowmelt from the former is diverted for irrigation and moist, cool winds from the latter help nurture the grapes. Soil conditions vary from valley to valley, and even within them.