Proclaimed the Wine Valley of the Year by Wine Enthusiast magazine in 2005, the Colchagua Valley has been compared by many to Napa Valley in California, and it is home to many of Chile's top red wines and the most developed tourism infrastructure. Colchagua's hot climate is due to the steep hills surrounding both sides of the valley that extend from the Pacific Coast east to the Andes. These hills block the cool breezes entering from the Pacific trapping the daytime heat, and making Colchagua a paradise for "big" red wines, and, in particular, carmenère, a variety that needs a lot of heat and sun to mature correctly. Syrah, cabernet, and malbec have also found their home in the valley. All these grape varieties express themselves quite differently than in other valleys, with ripe flavors, high alcohol levels (here they can top 15 degrees), and tannins with a firm, silky feel that is almost like a chocolate candy. However, beyond Santa Cruz, vintners like Montes are now exploring cooler areas to the west near the coast in Lolol and Marchigue, with such new plantings as pinot noir, and always searching for a different expression of wines.
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