William Foster and Alberto Valdés EARLY HISTORY OF WINE IN CHILE AND ARGENTINA Early chroniclers bestowed on a religious person, Don Francisco de Carabantes, the honour of having introduced the first vine to Chile in 1548, eight years following Pedro de Valdivia’s conquest of the territory.1 Details are scarce and some contend that Chile’s first grapevines originated from Spain, some contend from the Canary Islands, and some have even argued that the vines grew from seeds in raisins, an important element in a happy sailing conquistador’s diet. With more certainty we do know that Don Francisco de Aguirre planted the first vineyards in Copiapó in the central north of the country and enjoyed the first harvest in 1551. By 1554, large vineyards were already in the Central Valley, just outside the then small town of Santiago. Another priest, Juan Cidrón, is credited with bringing Criolla vine cuttings across the Andes from La Serena to the Argentine province of Santiago del Estero in 1556. The use of cuttings first established the variety known as País in Chile, Criolla in Argentina and Mission in California. Whether this hardy variety originated in Spain or Italy is uncertain, but the evidence suggests that it came to Chile, and then to western Argentina, from Mexico via Peru. Due to its adaptability to adverse conditions and indifference to harvesting delays it was to become the most common vine cultivated for centuries. It continues to this day to be grown in significant amounts, primarily...
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