Ryan and I had a day free of networking meetings this past week, so we decided to get out of the city and visit Concha y Toro winery for the afternoon. We were psyched to find out we could get almost all the way there using public transit: hop the subway one block from our apartment in Bellas Artes, make one change, ride it to the end, then a 10 minute cab ride out to the winery.
Even if it doesn’t ring a bell, you’re probably familiar with Concha y Toro – recognize any of these labels?
Concha y Toro is the largest winery in Latin America (and the 8th largest in the world) and exports ~80% of their wines – lots of them end up in the US. They also seem to be the biggest winery tour attraction (at least that we’ve ever seen). We learned from our guide that during the low season (like now, middle of winter), they give tours to ~300 visitors per day. In the high season (December/January), they have up to 900 guests per day. To us, it seemed crazy busy – can’t imagine what it’s like during high season.
We had called ahead and made reservations for the English tour. We arrived a bit early and wandered through the store, trying to avoid the group of 40 Venezuelans (who clearly were not at their first stop of the day). Our tour ended up being just us and 6 retired Australians, and it went a little something like this:
- Watch cheezy corporate video about the history of the winery in a fancy theater room
- Walk across the winery grounds to see the original house that the owner built – beautiful yellow and white mansion with lots of cool statues and fountains and a view over the vineyards and their own private pond
- Look at some dormant vines (we’ve taken to visiting wineries in the dead of winter; not recommended) and wait for Australian tourmates to finish asking the guide question about her year mopping floors in an Australian mine
- Taste a splash of something white in our fancy dancy branded glasses (that we got to take home!)
- Wait for the group of 40 tipsy Venezuelans to leave the cellar (the Casillero del Diablo) so we can go down and check it out. The story goes that long ago, the original owner noticed that bottles of his private stash of wines had gone missing from the cellar, so he spread a rumor that the devil dwelled in his cellar . . . and never lost another bottle again. As we were leaving the cellar, the lights went out (it was really dark) and a recorded voice began telling the story of the devil in the cellar
- Pop back above-ground and taste a splash of something red before being shuttled into the restaurant and store
While this wasn’t exactly the best wine tour we’ve been on, it was interesting to see Chile’s largest wine tourist attraction. And the free glasses were a bonus (especially since we broke one in our short-term apartment and had to replace it – shhh, don’t tell our landlord). The Concha y Toro wine tour was something different and easy to do from the city of Santiago for an afternoon, but very different that the high-end wine tasting tour we did in Mendoza. We learned that large corporate wineries aren’t really our gig, but we still like their wines!