Being the biggest wine exporter in the world, there are plenty of wine tasting destinations in Chile. All the way south from Santiago to Patagonia provinces, you will find vineyard after vineyard. The further away from the capital, Santiago, the more tranquility you can enjoy, which is a tradeoff to modern amenities. Santa Cruz offers the best of both worlds. Keep reading and find out why!
Chilean wine is a must-try
If you browse through alcoholic beverage isles in supermarkets, you will see bottles of wine and wine products for 5 to 10 USD. On the other end of the price scale, there are selected wines that are worth more than 100 USD, and they’re not even available in supermarkets.
Chilean wines are made with perfection. First, they grow specific types of grapes for each type of wine. Chile is one of the very few places on earth that can grow Carmenere grapes! The same goes for the ingredients added and the aging process. It’s a delicate and meticulous process, which you can see for yourself through some of the best wine tasting experiences in places like Santa Cruz.
The vineyard valleys of Santa Cruz are around two hours away from Santiago. If you cannot say goodbye to the big city’s conveniences, you can visit Santa Cruz as a day trip and return to the capital at the end of the day.
Getting to Santa Cruz, Chile
The best way to get to Santa Cruz is by renting a car and driving south via Ruta 5. As you get closer to Santa Cruz, you’ll find vineyards along the road. What a feast for the eyes!
There are many car rental agencies in Santiago, you can also find them at the international airport. The rates depend on which car you choose, normally 35.000 CLP (around 40 USD) per 24 hours. You need to have an international driving license and a credit card. Even though cash and debit card payments are allowed, you still need the credit card to pay the deposit.
Another way to go to Santa Cruz is by bus. There are many types of buses available at Santiago’s bus terminal. If you want ultimate comfort, go for the sleeper bus. Please note that this route is limited, so you may want to book your bus ticket in advance. Some tickets are available online, some need to be purchased directly at the bus station.
Spend the night in Santa Cruz
Even though a day trip to Santiago sounds tempting (especially if you’re pressed for time), consider spending a night or two in Santa Cruz. This town is popular among luxury travellers, especially wine enthusiasts. And southern Chile has always been a backpackers haven. Hence, you will find many types of accommodation in Santa Cruz, Chile.
For the ultimate vineyard experience, I suggest renting a cabin with a valley view. For a more affordable option, pick a hostel. Despite being so popular, Santa Cruz is not usually packed with tourists. So, even if you pick a hostel, you won’t have to share the common spaces with too many people. You’ll still get the tranquility everyone looks for in southern Chile. During my visit to Santa Cruz, I chose to stay at Casa Suiza, a backpacker hostel near Museo de Colchagua.
Vineyard tour on a bike
One of the reasons why I chose to stay at Casa Suiza was the guided vineyard tour. It’s fun to enjoy the surrounding view while on a bicycle! The host will take you to some of the most popular wineries in town. If you have any preferences, you can choose what you like with the private bike tour option.
If you decide to spend the night elsewhere, you’d likely find this guided tour service at the hotel or cabin where you’re staying at. Santa Cruz is a wine tasting hub after all! For those who are more adventurous, you can also explore the town on a bike yourself. Most tour agencies also provide rental services and a map to all wineries in town. So, grab one and peddle away!
Some wine tasting tours consist of a tour around the vineyard, visiting the factory, and tasting some of their products. There are plenty of tours to choose from. If you don’t know where to start, here are my recommendations:
Viña MontGras is one of the most visited wineries in Santa Cruz. They offer more tour options like walking and horseback riding! Each one starts with a tour around the vineyard with a tour guide. You will see different types of grapes growing, and probably get a little taste! Then, you will be taken through the wine-making process: from separating the grapes from seeds to storing the juice in the wooden barrels. Depending on the factory’s activities, you may be able to see the actual process.
It’s not wine tasting without tasting the wine itself! By the end of the tour, the guide will sit with you and introduce you to some of their best products. He will also give you tips on how to drink wine properly and what kinds of food they are served best with. You can experience all of these with just 15.000 CLP (around 17.5 USD) per person. On top of that, if you’ve booked a tour, you are entitled to a 30% discount on any wine they sell at the gift shop!
Address: Camino Isla de Yáquil s/n Palmilla, Colchagua, VI Región
Website: Viña MontGras
Maquis is a small local winery that focuses more on quality rather than quantity. Each bottle is crafted with simplicity. While most wineries add ingredients for a specific taste and aroma, Maquis lets their grapes do the talking. Maquis’ vineyard has a unique location. It’s surrounded by two rivers, giving the land plenty of minerals. Hence, the taste of Maquis wine is also unique and like no other. Sample Maquis’ finest collections at the factory starting from 12.000 CLP (around 14 USD). If you want to tour around the vineyard and factory, please make a reservation through their website first.
Address: Fundo Los Maquis s/n · Palmilla · Valle de Colchagua
Website: Viña Maquis
Taste the best of Chile
Besides these two wineries, there are many others you can choose from. If you have more time, also visit local wineries and breweries in Santa Cruz. Besides tour packages, they also offer a tasting menu of 1.000 to 3.000 CLP (around 1 to 3.5 USD) per glass. Please note that most drinks in Chile have higher alcohol percentages. Drink responsibly if you plan to ride or drive around town.
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