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story.lead_photo.caption Chile's unique geography — with the Humboldt Current to the west and the Andes to the east — make it ideal for growing grapes. (Illustration by Kelly Brant)

I have always had a passion for finding value wines. They exist all around us but a great place to find outstanding examples is the "Chile" section of your retail store and on restaurant wine lists.

Chilean wines continue to be more reliable, surpassing many countries in overall value.

One thing that helps Chile stand apart is its unique geography and climate for growing grapes. The country stretches more than 2600 miles in length but averages only about 110 miles in width. The Pacific Ocean runs the entire length of the western border while the Andes Mountains bank up to the east. This creates cool breezes from the west that moderate the temperatures rendering them ideal for grape growing. Chile's geography and climate are able to produce a broad span of grape varietals perfectly matched such as cabernet sauvignon in Maipo Valley, and Colchagua and the cooler areas of Casablanca Valley are fit for chardonnay and pinot noir.

The Humboldt Current, also called the Peru Current, is what creates these cool breezes offering ideal growing conditions. The cold, low salinity current acts as a large natural air conditioner fanning into vineyards. Almost every day the vineyards receive a protective blanket of fog that lowers air temperatures making it ideal for quality grape growing. (Similar conditions exist in California's Napa Valley.)

To sum this region up: it's a viticulture paradise. Add dedicated growers and producers, state-of-the-art technology and a drive for quality and value, Chile is worth having a taste.

CABERNET SAUVIGNON

The Seeker Cabernet Sauvignon (about $11)

Montes Classic Cabernet Sauvignon (about $13)

Los Vascos Cabernet Sauvignon (about $15)

Santa Ema Cabernet Sauvignon (about $11)

Axel Cabernet Sauvignon (about $19)

Santa Rita Medalla Real Cabernet Sauvignon (about $17)

PINOT NOIR

Root 1 Pinot Noir (about $13)

Leyda Pinot Noir (about $16)

Apaltagua Pinot Noir (about $13)

Concha y Toro Casillero Del Diablo Pinot Noir (about $11)

CHARDONNAY

La Playa Estate UnOaked Chardonnay (about $10)

Marques De Casa Concha Chardonnay (about $19)

Montes Classic Chardonnay (about $11)

SAUVIGNON BLANC

Lapostolle Grand Selection Sauvignon Blanc (about $15)

Prisma Sauvignon Blanc (about $19)

Ritual Sauvignon Blanc (about $20)

Emiliana Natura Sauvignon Blanc (about $13)

Concha y Toro Casillero Del Diablo Reserva Sauvignon Blanc (about $12)

Lorri Hambuchen is a member of London's Institute of Wines and Spirits.

Email:

uncorked@thewinecenter.com

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