When the Image of Chile Foundation set out to discover Chile’s most emblematic symbol abroad, the result was not Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda or the moai of Easter Island; it was wine. Yet, up until a few years ago, the world’s fifth largest wine exporter didn’t have a single bar in its capital city showcasing premier bottles from the surrounding vineyards. Fast-forward to present day, and there are now nearly a dozen wine bars in Santiago.
Chilean wine holds a legendary place in world viticulture © Mark Johanson / Lonely Planet
Most of these newly opened vinobars have bilingual sommeliers and seasonally changing wine lists, making them vital spots to check the pulse of the nation’s rapidly evolving wine scene. If there’s a new trend in Chilean wine, you’ll find out about it first at a tasting or winemaker-led class in one of these seven wine bars.
Start your Santiago wine tour at one of the city's originals, Bocanáriz © Mark Johanson / Lonely Planet
Santiago’s original wine bar is an intimate space in the trendy Lastarria neighborhood with exposed brick walls and hearty dishes that complement the long list of Chilean vinos. If you’re not sure what to drink, you can always sample your way across the country on a flight of three wines united by a common theme (region, grape, style, etc). The English-speaking sommeliers are more than happy to steer you in the right direction. They also run workshops, blending courses and introductory classes for those seeking an insider perspective on the Chilean wine world. Advanced reservations are a must.
Taste the best wines in South America at La Misión © Mark Johanson / Lonely Planet
The owners of Bocanáriz expanded their horizons when they opened up their second wine bar, La Misión, in the ritzy Vitacura neighborhood. La Misión not only showcases wines from across Chile, but also the rest of South America, making it one of the only places in town where you can sample a Tannat from Uruguay, a Malbec from Argentina and a brut from Brazil all in one sitting. Like Bocanáriz, you can choose from flights of wine themed by region or style, and there are typically up to 20 primo vinos available by the glass. Grab a table in the leafy interior patio, order a charcuterie board, and get ready to hobnob with the upper echelon of Chilean society.
Try one of the thousand wines on the menu at La Vinocracia © Mark Johanson / Lonely Planet
Slightly removed from the tourist circuit in the residential Ñuñoa neighborhood, La Vinocracia boasts one of the largest wine lists in South America with more than a thousand labels on the menu at any given time. Of course, Chile is the protagonist here. The wines come from the surrounding valleys, the seafood is plucked from the Pacific coast, and the décor resembles that of a rural Central Valley casona (replete with an underground wine cave!). The best day to visit is on Monday when bartenders uncork up to 50 premium wines and offer them by the glass for just CH$1,000 (US$1.50) apiece. Check the website for weekly winemaker-led tastings (in Spanish only) and live performances from local bands.
Order a copa and a pastel de choclo at Barrica 94 © Mark Johanson / Lonely Planet
This two-story wine bar lords over the tourist-friendly Patio Bellavista complex and lures foreigners with its seven-page wine menu and flashy décor (think jet black booths with Merlot-purple accents). There are three-dozen Chilean wines available by the glass, and each appears on the menu with tasting notes and recommended pairings such as ceviche, empanadas or a traditional pastel de choclo (corn and beef pie). Themed flights of four different wines are also available so you can taste the flavors of the cooler coastal regions (like the Leyda and Casablanca valleys) or try Chile’s B-side grapes (like Carignan and País). Take note: this is the only wine bar open on a Sunday night.
Sample Chilean and French wines alongside tasty cheeses at Les Dix Vins © Mark Johanson / Lonely Planet
Les Dix Vins
Want to see how Chilean varietals compare with their Old World brethren? This is the goal of the oh-so-sleek Les Dix Vins, which offers a small and ever-changing menu of Chilean and French wines to enjoy alongside lavish cheese boards. This store-cum-bar lies in the heart of the ‘Sanhattan’ financial district, and gives suited santiaguinos a reason to visit every night of the work week. They come on Mondays for free cheese tastings, Tuesdays for sommelier-led wine classes, Wednesdays for free wine tastings, Thursdays for oysters and bubbles, and the last Friday of every month for live jazz. All events are in Spanish only, pero si no hablas español, you can always smile and nod as you sample the goods.
Indulge in organic wines and mouthwatering charcuterie at Polvo © Mark Johanson / Lonely Planet
With its walls lined in shelves of empty wine bottles, Andean earthenware and jars of pickled vegetables, Polvo fits right in to the bohemian Bellavista neighborhood. This homey-chic restobar sources only organic wines from small producers that reflect the character of their origin. The seasonally updated wine list might include unconventional red blends, uncommon orange wines or even rarer sweet wines from the Atacama Desert, among a host of viticultural curiosities. Even wine-haters will dig the pequeño menu of gastronomic delights, which include gourmet twists on grandma-approved Chilean staples and mouthwatering cheese and meat boards (there’s an entire charcuterie station outside the kitchen!).
Savor premium wines at La Cava del Sommelier © Mark Johanson / Lonely Planet
La Cava del Sommelier
Santiago’s newest wine bar is located in the gentrifying Barrio Suecia neighborhood (which was formerly known for its debauched nightlife). This classy yet approachable restobar was the pet project of Ricardo Grellet, president of the National Association of Chilean Sommeliers, who had a mission to offer the best local wines at the lowest prices possible. Though you’ll find more than 300 labels available by the bottle, your best bet is the weekly menu of six premium wines – all of which you can try by the (small) glass for under CH$10,000 (about $15). The sommeliers here are some of the finest in town and, as a policy, won’t even accept tips.