History of Wine in South America
July 13, 2011 § Leave a comment
Wine making in South America began during the time of the conquistadors during the mid 16th century. Missionaries were among those to first arrive in South America. As they colonized the region they brought wines with them in which they used to create local vineyards. It was thanks to Inca engineering and love that the first vineyards were planted south of Lima in 1548.
According to Inca legend in 1412 Inca emperor Pachacutec (the builder of Machu Picchu) expanded the Inca Empire into the Ica Valley. While in the region to inspect the lands the emperor fell in love with a gorgeous young maid. He proposed marriage but she declined in favor of her current boyfriend. Pachacutec was kind of heart and wanted to show the maiden the love she had inspired offered her the gift of her choosing. Her wish was to see the waters from the rivers of the mountains reach her town in the desert. It took 10 days and 40,000 workers to build the aquaducts “La Achirana del Inca” bringing water to her town of Tate and the rest of the Ica Valley. Pachacutec’s irrigation system provided the Spanish with the waters needed to cultivate their first vineyards of Quebranta grapes and produce their first wines a few years later.
The production of wine in South America quickly spread througout the region. It was Jesuit priests who planted the first Vitis vinifera grapes in Chile in 1551 and the first Chilean wine was produced the 1555. By the late 16th century Chile had widespread vineyards producing wines of Muscatel, Tortontel, Albihio and Mollar.
During the Viceroyalty of Peru the vineyards were restricted in the amount of wine they could produce so that they majority of wine consumed would still come directly from Spain. In 1641, wine imports from Chile and throughout the Viceroyalty were banned. Wines from Peru came to a halt as the vineyards converted their production from wine to pisco and aguardiente. Chile ignored the king’s ruling as they preferred their own wine to the imported Spanish. When one of the brazen Chilean ships exporting wine to Peru was captured by Francisco Drake the king was so outraged that he ordered all the vineyards in Chile to be uprooted – thankfully this was another order the Chileans decided to ignore.