Sippin' On A Budget
A Guide to Wine Tasting in Casablanca, Chile
When visiting Santiago, you’ll see plenty of options for wine tours in the Casablanca & Maipo valleys. Problem is, they can be quite expensive and put a major dent into your travel budget. While in the city, we figured that we could get the same experience for a fraction of the cost if we created our own itinerary. Instead of paying upwards of $150 for a tour, we took it upon ourselves to see what we could come up with.
A visit to the city of Valparaíso was already on our schedule, so we decided to check out the nearby Casablanca valley for vineyard hopping. The Casablanca valley is a little over an hour from Santiago, but only 30 minutes from Valparaíso. We decided to hit Casablanca at the end of our stay in Valparaíso, on our return ride to Santiago, as it would cut down on the traveling, and we could use the hour ride back to sleep off some the wine and still be ready to hit the town when we arrived back in Santiago.
Doing it on our own required a little bit of prep work, as most of the wineries ask for a minimum of 24 hour notice for tours. We learned this about 20 hours before we planned to hit the wineries (FAIL!), so we emailed and the wineries and hoped for the best, knowing that we’d show up the next day anyway.
In the end, we didn't get a tour at one of the vineyards we visited (Emiliana), not because we didn’t confirm, but because we arrived about 15 minutes after the last tour of the day departed, but we did enjoy a tasting. With that being said, reach out early so that you can get details & times locked down.
Getting to Casablanca
If you’re staying in Santiago, you can catch the bus from various spots in the city. The easiest is from the Parjaritos bus terminal, as you’ll avoid dealing with the stops in various points in the city before you officially hit the road to Casablanca. If you’re leaving from Valparaíso, you’ll find the bus terminal in the center of city. Several coach bus companies offer rides to/from Casablanca, and we were already familiar with the terminal from our arrival a couple of days earlier.
BUS RIDE FROM VALPARAISO TO CASABLANCA: 1,000 Chilean Pesos (about $1.50 USD)
We hopped on the bus and about 30 minutes later, we were in the center of Casablanca. From there, we went over the bus terminal’s taxi stand and arranged a cab to take us to the first vineyard, Emiliana.
PRO TIP: Bring some cash so that you’ll have no problem with getting a cab. Uber is easy to use in Valpo & Santiago (sorry, no Lyft yet), but you’ll have a hard time finding a ride in Casablanca.
Emiliana is famous for being the largest sustainable and organic winery in the world. Their biodynamic and organic processes for maintaining the vineyard create better quality fruits and in turn, a superior wine.
While you explore the grounds, you’ll run into alpacas and chickens randomly, but they are all a part of the environmentally conscious system that produces these great wines. The vineyard is beautifully maintained and perfect for a calming moment away from the city bustle of Valparaíso or Santiago.
We opted for a basic tasting and enjoyed four wines while we were there, and the Coyam stuck out as an immediate favorite. You have the option of adding cheese, or chocolate, or having a full blown picnic along with your tasting, so you definitely have a choice in experience.
Cost: $12.000 Chilean Pesos (about $18 USD) for a basic tasting // For more info in tours and other options: http://www.emiliana.cl/en/
Bottle to take home: Coyam
After we wrapped up the tasting at Emiliana, we called a cab and headed to Bodegas RE.
Founded in 2012, combining traditional methods with innovative blends keep Bodegas RE on the cutting edge of wine-making (The RE in this winery’s name refers to the concept of REcreating, REinventing, and REdiscovering). In a short time, Bodegas RE has moved to the forefront of Chilean winemaking. Here, you’ll find wine blends you won’t taste anywhere else, such as Pinotel (a blend of 95 percent Pinot Noir with five percent Moscatel) and Chardonnoir (as the name suggests, a mix of Chardonnay and Pinot Noir). Bodegas RE is a new, constantly evolving project with these wine experiments being worked on every year until they have perfected a new blend.
We were able to do a brief tour before our tasting, where our guide took us to an underground room where the barrels and clay eggs were housed and explained the vineyard’s wine-making process (the process mixes tradition wine-making processes with new-age techniques), how they choose certain blends and how minor changes in the process can determine the taste of a wine. We also got a peek at how the grapes look at certain stages of fermentation.
We tasted 5 of Bodegas RE’s blends (two reds, three whites, all fantastic), paired with assorted breads & cheeses.
PRO TIP: Enjoy a taste of the balsamic vinegar, also made on site. It’s some of the best you’ll ever taste.
Cost: $19.000 Chilean Pesos (about $28 USD), which included a tour of vineyard, balsamics and artisanal fruit liquors production rooms, clay vessel and barrel cellar, 5 wine tasting with breads & cheeses, and the locally made olive oil & balsamic vinegar // For more info in tours and other options: http://bodegasre.cl
Bottle to take home: Bodegas RE also has a fulfillment center based in the U.S. that ships domestically, which is great for folks who hate checking baggage (#TeamCarryOn stand up!), but want to have a taste of Chile when they get back. Have a taste and and order your favorite once you arrive back home. You can order a bottle here: https://bodegasreusa.com
TIPS FOR KEEPING THE COSTS LOW:
- Plot your trip out before-hand. This way, you won’t spend unnecessarily on taxi fare as you move from one vineyard to the next. As with any taxi, confirm the price before taking off for your destination. We spent about $15 USD total on taxi fare for getting to/from Casablanca and the vineyards.
- Skip the tour and just do the tasting. Many of the vineyards will allow you to explore (to an extent) on your own, and you’ll get a lot of detail and history during the tasting itself.
- Eat lunch beforehand. The vineyards will have light fare (and sometimes a full menu, such as Emiliana, who offered a picnic option on the vineyard's grounds), but you can save a couple of pesos by picking up something small before heading out to the vineyards. You’ll also have cheese & bread with the tastings to snack on until you head back to Valparaíso or Santiago.
- Make sure you know the bus schedule for heading back to where you came from. Nothing worse than being stuck in Casablanca and having to foot the bill for a cab back to Valparaiso or Santiago!