According to the most widespread theory, the name Chile derives from the word “chilli” in the Aymara language, meaning „the country where the world ends.“ The first humans settled on the territory of present-day Chile as early as 13,000 BCE. From the beginning, natural disasters such as tsunamis and earthquakes posed a major challenge to the country's development. In the heyday of the Inca Empire, the north of Chile also belonged to the Empire’s sphere of influence, until the Spanish conquered the territory. In 1541 the Spaniards founded their first colonial settlement, Santiago. During this era, the Mapuche people in the south of Chile maintained impressive resistance to colonial rule. Chile now largely seems to have healed from the darkest chapter of its modern history, the bloody military dictatorship under Augusto Pinochet, Today Chile is probably the most developed country in South America and is economically the continent’s model country.
Viticulture in Chile
The first grapevines arrived in Chile from Peru in the mid-16th century. The País varietal, originally from Spain, quickly took hold in the region, and became the Communion wine of choice for missionaries. País was to dominate Chilean viticulture until the beginning of the 20th century, when it began to be crowded out by a multitude of international varietals. Today, thankfully, País is experiencing a revival, and is without question the icon of Chilean winemaking. Among the international varietals brought across the ocean, Chile received a priceless treasure in the form of the Carménère. Originally from Bordeaux, it had lost much of its appeal after having demonstrated its susceptibility to phylloxera during the great wine blight, and found a new home in Chile. It was long mistaken for Merlot produced and sold as such until the mid-1990s, when ampelographers discovered its true identity and its widespread success in the region with delight. Chile thus boasts two specialty grapes, both of which should excite wine lovers the world over.