A Grape Country: How Chilean Wines Built Their Reputation

A Grape Country: How Chilean Wines Built Their Reputation

Chile is an ideal country to develop sustainable viticulture. It has a Mediterranean climate with lots of sunshine and little rain, perfect for growing grapes. With a wide range of landscapes — including mountains, deserts, and valleys — Chileans can plant different grape varieties.

In addition, Chile has a long wine production history. So, in this South American country, nature and culture combine in a solid wine tradition.

“Like many other things in Latin America, the history of Chilean wine begins with the arrival of the Spaniards, who introduced the first vines to the valleys around 1550,” said Pablo Ugarte, a Chilean wine specialist and taster.

Early in the colonial period, the Spaniards needed grapes for the wine they used in the Catholic Masses. So, planting them became a priority for the newcomers.

Grapes hang on the vine in Montgras Vineyard, in Santa Cruz, Chile. *** Las uvas cuelgan en el viñedo Montgras, en Santa Cruz, Chile. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

“The soil’s characteristics, the temperature, and the waters coming from the rivers were fundamental factors [to establish the first vineyards],” said Ugarte. With those first fields, “the pride of our wine was sown.”

Trans-Atlantic voyages eased trade during the 19th century, allowing goods to reach international markets on a larger scale. It was then that Chilean wines began to captivate international palates. It seemed that Chile had learned well from its European teachers.


The 20th century was a time of positive change for Chilean wines. “A period of big changes began in the 1980s. Its objective was to take the wines to the markets they required,” said the taster.

A law regulating wine production helped to secure a stable industry. Besides, farmers incorporated new technologies. As a result, “international producers began to recognize Chilean varieties,” said Ugarte.

Today, Chile is the eighth-largest wine-producing country in the world, with 10,300 hectoliters bottled in 2020. (Topping the list is Italy, with 47,200 hectoliters, followed by France, with 43,900 hectoliters.)

A worker fills a barrel of wine at the Laura Hartwig Vineyard, in Santa Cruz, Chile. *** Un trabajador llena un barril de vino en la viña Laura Hartwig, en Santa Cruz, Chile. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Chileans have planted Pais grape for centuries, but today this variety has a competitive advantage in the red wine market. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carmenere, or Syrah are also popular Chilean grapes used in red wines, while Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay are the preferred varieties for white wines.

The most famous wines in Chile include a red Santa Carolina and a white Sauvignon Blanc Nimbus Estate.

The former has a deep purple shade. It is a full-bodied wine, with a light touch of cedar and an acidic hint establishing a perfect balance with its dense texture and heavy tannins. Chileans use it to accompany red meats or pasta such as pappardelle à la Bolognese.

The Sauvignon Blanc Nimbus Estate is a white wine known for combining acidic notes with tropical and floral tones. It features citrus hints of lime with subtle shades of white pepper and herbs. Its elaborated mix of flavors makes it unique.

Another notable wine is the white Chardonnay Reserva Santa Carolina. With a medium body, every sip has an ideal balance between sweetness and acidity. Chileans drink it while eating oysters, squid, lobsters, or smoked fish.

The ruby-colored Carmenere Cousiño Macul — distinguished by its bright purple rims and an intense black pepper, strawberry, and dried fruit aroma — is popular, too.

Chilean wines also include varieties with plum notes to drink while tasting mature cheese or traditional Chilean dishes such as corn cake.

(Translated and edited by Gabriela Olmos. Edited by Melanie Slone and Matthew B. Hall.)


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How Earthquakes Have Scarred Chile and its People

How Earthquakes Have Scarred Chile and its People

Some of Chile’s majestic landscapes result from massive earthquakes, which hit all too often in this South American country.

In fact, Chile lived through the strongest earthquake in the world — 9.5 degrees on the Richter scale — in 1960.

Chileans have dealt with the consequences of living in a seismic area for centuries.

Chile is seismic because it is part of the so-called Ring of Fire, a region in the Pacific Ocean that often experiences earthquakes and volcanic eruptions. The Ring of Fire covers the western coast of the Americas from Alaska to Chile, the eastern coast of Asia, and some islands in the west of the Pacific Ocean.

Large earthquakes often rattle the inhabitants of the Ring of Fire. *** Los sismos de mayor fuerza ‘agitan’ a los habitantes del Cinturón de Fuego. (Jeff J. Mitchell/Getty Images)

Living in Chile and Argentina since the 16th century, the Mapuche people consider earthquakes an expression of a cosmic imbalance. To recover the universe’s equilibrium, they perform rituals and give offerings to their gods and ancestors’ spirits.

The largest quake recorded in the colonial period took place in May 1674. It reduced all of Santiago to rubble, causing a significant economic crisis in a season of droughts. It was a devastating combination of misfortunes for Santiago’s people.

In 1751, the earth shook again, this time in the city of Concepción in central Chile. The magnitude of the quake was 8.5 degrees Richter and forced the entire town to relocate.

The 19th century brought three major shocks to this South American country. Two earthquakes destroyed Concepción and Talcahuano in central Chile in 1822 and 1835. The third one with a tidal wave hit the northern province of Arica in 1868. Complete Chilean cities went through several reconstructions and suffered thousands of human losses, due to these natural phenomena.

The Pacific Ring of Fire. *** El Cinturón de Fuego del Pacífico. (Urvashi Makwana)

Chile suffered massive seismic destruction during the 20th century, as well. An earthquake ravaged the city of Chillán, in central Chile, in 1939, but this time, Parliament took action.

While the government and the population worked in the reconstruction and rescue process, the Chilean Parliament created CORFO, the Development and Reconstruction Corporation. Run by the state, the agency promotes industrial activity and the country’s reconstruction every time an earthquake destroys a town.

The 1960 earthquake remains in Chileans’ memory. Followed by a tsunami, it devastated Cautín, Valdivia, Osorno, Llanquihue and Chiloé. The tremor left 2 million homeless people, killed over 1,600, and caused significant damage to Chile’s economy.

One more earthquake hit the central zone in 1985.

At least two destructive earthquakes have hit Chile during the 21st century. Aysén in southern Chile and Tocopilla in the north of the country suffered significant architectural losses in the 2007 shock.

But the most destructive quake in Chile’s history happened in 2010. According to the local media, it was as intense as 8.8 degrees on the Richter scale and left 2 million victims, which accounts for 10% of Chile’s population.

Why is Chile so seismic?

Chile is prone to these natural phenomena because it is located on the edge of the Nazca tectonic plate, where it collides with the South American plate. Through a geological process called subduction, the Nazca plate is pushing underneath the South American plate, creating the earth’s involuntary movement.

Marcelo Lagos, a geographer from the University of Chile, explains that the interaction between the Nazca plate, the South American plate and the Andes mountain range creates “an area where shallow earthquakes can occur which, being so close to the coast, can generate tsunamis.”

Earthquakes can cause the loss of life as well as property damage. *** Los terremotos pueden provocar muertes y daños materiales. (José Jiménez/Getty Images)

But not all earthquakes in Chile are caused by the interaction of the Nazca and the South American plates.

A geological fault crosses the eastern part of Santiago, causing the earth to move. “Other types of earthquakes are those produced by the San Ramón Fault, which has caused superficial movements, such as the 1947 earthquake,” Lagos said.

“The San Ramón Fault is quite dangerous. Scientists have confirmed that this fault is active. It has produced earthquakes in the past. For this reason, the best recommendation to all Chileans is to have a culture of prevention, be ready,” Lagos said. He was emphatic on how important it is to follow the authorities’ instructions in case of emergency.

“No one can forecast earthquakes accurately. It is impossible. No one can tell you when or how often they happen,” said the specialist.

While some Chileans are used to living in a seismic land; for others, it is stressful. Earthquakes leave material damage and emotional scars, which are harder to tackle for the population most in need.

(Translated and edited by Gabriela Olmos. Edited by Melanie Slone and Fern Siegel)



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Big Cat Rescue: Jaguar Caught in Brazil Town

Big Cat Rescue: Jaguar Caught in Brazil Town

A jaguar that began seeking shelter in populated areas after its nearby habitat in western Brazil was ravaged by fire has been evacuated from the area and taken to a veterinary hospital for treatment. The animal was severely dehydrated, had third-degree burns on its legs, and was also suffering from possible smoke inhalation and kidney damage.

Rescuers caught the big cat on Aug. 17 in the town of Pocone and evacuated it from the scene by a helicopter. The jaguar was first taken to a nearby triage center for animals injured by the fire, but given the severity of its injuries, was sedated and flown some 65 miles in a military plane to the veterinary hospital Federal University of Mato Grosso in Cuiaba.

“The animal’s life is still in danger, but our team is doing everything possible to help it,” said Andre Faust, the university’s communications director told Zenger News earlier this week. “I know it was looking for shelter from the fire and tried to hide inside a shed that belonged to a family that lives near Transpantaneira, in the city of Pocone.” What will happen next to the cat is not yet known.

Jaguars such as the one captured in Pantanal are the largest cats in the Americas, clocking in at as much as 2.5 feet tall at the shoulder and with a body as long as 6 feet — plus a 3-foot tail—and weighing as much as 300 pounds. Panthera.org, which tracks the animals’ status, reports that while jaguar populations are abundant in some areas, “this wild cat is threatened by hunting, deforestation and loss of wild prey.”

Medical staff examine the jaguar rescued in Pantanal in an undated photo. (Willian Gomes, Secomm UFMT/Real Press)


Medical staff examine the jaguar rescued in Pantanal in an undated photo. (Willian Gomes, Secomm UFMT/Real Press)


Medical staff move the jaguar rescued in Pantanal in an undated photo. (Willian Gomes, Secomm UFMT/Real Press)

The animal rescue from the extensive and recurring fires in the Pantanal wetlands involve the local fire department, the State Secretariat for the Environment, the Federal University of Mato Grosso, the Brazilian Air Force, the Chico Mendes Institute for Biodiversity Conservation, and area residents.

(Edited by Stephen Thomas Gugliociello and Matthew Hall.)

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PHOTOS: Wildlife caught on camera reveal a rainforest on the mend

PHOTOS: Wildlife caught on camera reveal a rainforest on the mend

Images of wildcats, bears and other animals using the same trails in Colombia’s Alto Fragua Wasi National Natural Park have experts optimistic about the health of that rainforest. The park, near the country’s southern border with Ecuador, has been a cause of concern to environmentalists because of the feared impact of deforestation and agricultural expansion on it.

But fresh snaps from six camera traps recently installed in the jungle indicate that the park is in a much better condition than had been feared. Over a 45-day period, the hidden cameras captured several wildcats, bears and large rodents all using the same tracks in the jungle, which indicates that the wildlife is thriving and the food sources are plentiful.

An animal walks past a trail camera.
(PNN Colombia/Newsflash)


An animal walks past a trail camera.
(PNN Colombia/Newsflash)


An animal walks past a trail camera.
(PNN Colombia/Newsflash)

Alto Fragua Indi Wasi Park, which measures 294 square miles, was created in 2002 to preserve the region’s natural diversity, as well as the culture of the Inga people. Indi Wasi means “House of the Sun” in the Inga language.

The monitoring project is part of the Col0mbian government’s Amazon Conservation Team’s efforts to protect the wider Amazon area, but also includes the involvement of The Nature Conservancy and is financed by the International Climate Initiative of the German Ministry of Environment, which has invested a total of $3,65 million in Colombian Amazon conservation projects.

Last June, the U.K. furthermore announced that it will donate about $80,000 to the “Sustainable Forest Territories” project to aid with conservation in Colombian jungle areas, as well as control the extent of deforestation, a sign of the global environmental importance of the Amazon region

This area of the Amazon basin was severely  threatened by deforestation and agricultural expansion until the Colombian government decided to designate it a protected natural park. The land is among the most deforested areas in the country.

The camera-tracking project aims not only to document the condition of the forest, but also to help planners make more better decisions on land use and help Colombia achieve its climate-change goals by safeguarding the the rainforest against illegal logging and land grabs.

A cougar sits in front of a trail camera.
(PNN Colombia/Newsflash)


An armadillo walks past a trail camera.
(PNN Colombia/Newsflash)


A large feline walks past a trail camera.
(PNN Colombia/Newsflash)

It’s the images of bears and jaguars using the same trails that have given environmentalists the most optimism, scientists said in a statement to Zenger News. The South American spectacled bear is natural prey to jaguars, and the fact that they appear to be thriving side by side shows that the bear population is strong, and that the jaguars have plenty of alternative food sources.

In all, 15 different species were cataloged during the 45-day period. including cougars, oncillas, ocelots and small jaguarundi. The cameras also filmed tayras, from the weasel family, crab-eating raccoons, the South American coati, the lowland paca, the black agouti, the collared peccary and two armadillo subspecies.

According to the researchers, the richness of fauna and flora documented by the cameras demonstrates that conservation efforts implemented in the park have had a positive effect not just on the rainforest, but also the wildlife that it sustains. In the statement, The Amazon Conservation Team said, “The images confirm the excellent conservation work being carried out in the area.”

(Edited by Matthew Hall and Allison Elyse Gualtieri.)

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