The Valle del Choapa or, the Choapa Valley, is quietly emerging as one of the best wine regions in Chile. Not as lauded as Colchagua Valley or as close to Santiago as Maipo Valley, it’s small size and distance from major cities have left it in relative obscurity.
Even Chile itself, the seventh largest wine producer in the world, is often overshadowed by neighboring Argentina and their beloved Malbec. So, when it comes to wine tourism in Chile there is stiff competition. But for those in the know, this country, squeezed between the Andes and the Pacific, is home to countless micro-climates perfect for viniculture.
Of course, in such a competitive environment it is difficult to find information on unique emerging wines, vineyards, and regions. Especially if you are interested in discovering something more interesting than the mass production vineyards just outside of Santiago. There are sixteen wine regions in Chile, and we decided to explore one of the more remote and unknown, the Valle del Choapa.
Valle del Choapa
Valle del Choapa lies 200 kilometers north of Santiago in the Coquimbo Region.
This tiny wine region has just ninety hectares of vine. By comparison, Maipo Valley has 3,000 hectares of vines.
It was large commercial producer De Martino that put the Choapa Valley on the map when they sourced grapes here to produce its popular Legado Syrah. Two boutique wineries here, however, have been exclusively committed to crafting wines in their boutique local facilities.
El Rio Choapa rises in the Andes and makes its way to the Pacific through this arid valley. The vineyards of the valley sit about 800 meters above sea level. The cooling effect of the Andes and the Pacific create a unique micro-climate in the sunny, elevated region. These influences have help create one of the best wine regions in Chile.
The small town of Salamanca is the largest in the area offering a handful of restaurants and accommodation options.
Getting to Valle del Choapa
Located halfway between Santiago and La Serena, to reach Valle de Choapa you will need to take a bus or travel by private car.
Expreso Norte runs a bus service every 4 hours from Santiago to Salamanca. The trip costs between $10 USD and $25 USD.
The drive takes about four hours and takes you along the tolled Ruta Five.
The Best Wineries of Valle del Choapa
Viña Choapa is a boutique winery, just outside Salamanca. We had a bit of trouble finding the winery among the vinyards. Luckily with help from a few friendly locals, we finally navigated the small roads in between the vineyards to the winery itself. Upon arrival, Christian and Diego who ran the vineyard greeted us and offered to show us the winery. Our guides’ English was about as good as our Spanish, so our tour and tasting were conducted in Spanglish. We managed to get by and learned something about the winery and the wines they were producing. How accurately that information has been translated, we cannot guarantee!
Established in 2013 Viña Choapa only recently began commercialization in 2016. Currently, they produce five white wines and two red wines with the expectation to introduce a rosé shortly. The area has great conditions for producing wine due to the warm climate during the day and the frigid temperatures at night. An added bonus is the magnificent landscapes and stargazing which comes along with the visit to the vineyard. The white wines range from crisp and light to fruity and full and two reds, a delicious Syrah and yummy a Cabernet Franc.
After a tour, we thanked our guides and prepared to set off to find a camp for the night. Instead, our hosts graciously invited us to camp at the winery and have dinner with them. We spent the evening eating delicious seafood stew, sampling a few more bottles from the winery and conversing in broken Spanglish under the incredible stars of the Valle del Choapa.
- Hours: Monday to Saturday 11:00am – 4:00pm
- Address: Parcela 30, Panguesillo, Salamanca, Coquimbo, Chile
- Price: Tastings start from $6 USD
- Phone: +56 9 7757 3686
- Website: www.choapawines.cl/
Unfortunately, Vitivinicola Alpa, the producers of Vinos Alpa were not open to visit when we were in the area. This was a shame because we were interested to observe their all natural wine making processes.
Vinos Alpa or Alpa wines is the project of French winemaker Arnaud Faupin. They produce their grapes and their wines completely naturally. They don’t use pesticides, fertilizer, or even electricity. Relying instead on mechanical techniques.
Through these natural processes and the micro-climate here, they are producing unique, interesting, and celebrated wines. We would be very interested to hear from anyone who has had a chance to visit!
- Hours: Monday to Saturday 8:00am – 6:00pm
- Address: D-825, Salamanca, Coquimbo, Chile
- Phone: +56 9 8950 0434
- Website: www.vinosalpa.cl
Where to Stay in Valle del Choapa
Pircas De Arboleda
This comfortable mountain lodge outside of Salamanca has cabins for up to six people. The natural beauty and tranquility are the highlight of this accommodation but an onsite pool and charming staff are great additions. Rooms start from $80 USD.
This beautifully appointed four star hotel offers everything you need for a relaxing stay in Valle del Choapa. With breakfast, gardens, onsite bar, and restaurant, it is an ideal base to explore the region from. Rooms Start from $170 USD.
Where to Next
Heading north? Why not try the Pisco of the Elqui Valley?
Going south? What about a sea change in the port city of Valparaíso.
Have you been to Valle del Choapa? Or are you thinking of stopping by? Let us know in the comments below.
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