Mr & Mrs Smith Review – Explora Atacama

Published on Mr & Mrs Smith, January 2018 I realise that Mr Smith and I aren’t quite as adventurous as everyone else visiting Explora when, after the long, dusty road from the airport, we want to get acquainted with the barman before the mountain guide. ‘Of course,’ smiles the manager who greets us on arrival, ‘but head to the Explorer’s room soon to book your … Continue reading Mr & Mrs Smith Review – Explora Atacama

South America’s Top 10 wine hotels

South America used to be the domain of gap year backpackers and shoestring tourism. That isn’t the case any more. There’s been a boom in luxury adventure tourism across the Southern Cone, with five-star hotels nestled into the desert plains of the Atacama and down to the waterfalls and glacier lakes of Patagonia. In the wine regions too you can experience the wilderness of the … Continue reading South America’s Top 10 wine hotels

Guide to Vale dos Vinhedos: Brazil’s unexpected wine region

Written for Around the World in 80 Harvests. Brazil’s main wine region, Vale dos Vinhedos, may well be what you least expect from the country known for its tropical beaches, flamboyant carnival and vast Amazon jungle. The landscape of Serra Gaucha, one of the southernmost states in Brazil, consists of hillsides and forest. It is humid, like all of Brazil, but the cloudy and rainy days … Continue reading Guide to Vale dos Vinhedos: Brazil’s unexpected wine region

Turn left before the gauchos: Casa de Uco

Written for Great Wine Capitals The best way to experience Mendoza is out in the vineyards overlooking the awesome Andes mountains, and the ultimate spot that combines the life of the vineyards with the remoteness and grandeur of the Andes is the Uco Valley. Since I moved to Mendoza in 2009, I’ve seen wineries and hotels laying roots closer and closer to the Andes each … Continue reading Turn left before the gauchos: Casa de Uco

San Pedro de Atacama

moon valley from insideThere is nowhere else in the world like San Pedro de Atacama.

It may be the driest desert on the planet, but the Atacama is also home to large white salt flats, steam spitting geyser fields, colorful Altiplano mountains and cactus valleys, extreme volcanoes, and clear, star-filled night skies.

Alongside the breathtaking landscapes, there is a plethora of wildlife: pink flamingos, serene guanacos and sun bathing lizards. But that isn’t the only life here. A vibrant community of locals and travelers create a welcoming and relaxing town that makes San Pedro de Atacama a world-class destination.

Written for 1756 Magazine, China: san pedro de atacama

The Sights

The Atacama seems to be an otherworldly destination. So otherworldly in fact that one of its most famous attractions is named after the moon: Valle de la Luna (Moon Valley).

It is not hard to see why this is called Moon Valley – the surface is virtually white. Covered in salt, this extraordinary landscape is part of the Cordillera de la Sal (Salt foothills). Formed over millions of years, water and wind shaped these unique formations: rock sculptures, caverns, caves, sand dunes and interesting patterns. This arid and barren land, with less than 1mm of rain a year, has a unique geography. Moon Valley is a beautiful spot for walking and at only 13kms from San Pedro, it is everyone’s favorite place for sunset.

Nearby is the Valle de la Muerte (Death Valley), which was originally called Valle de Martes (Mars Valley) however after being continuously mispronounced the name changed to Muerte. Both namesakes seem to have good reason, as this valley has dry, red rock and sand (like Mars appears) and barely any life form can live in such brutal conditions (hence Death). The valley has actually been used many times as a film set for movies based in Mars, and as a testing ground for new space expeditions!

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Discovering Barrio Italia

It is not surprising that with a name like ‘Barrio Italia’ (Italian Neighborhood) this corner of Chile is filled with designers and chefs! Chile has many immigrant influences, and one of the most stylish – and delicious – of those were the Italians. Famed for its Italian roots, excellent cafes and design shops, Barrio Italia in Santiago is an epicurean delight as well as a … Continue reading Discovering Barrio Italia

Keeping Cool in Casablanca

When imagining “cool climate” wines, what springs to my mind first is the image of soggy, wet vines and miserable days of drizzle that leave your head firmly in the clouds — and not in a good way. Spending the first 25 years of my life in England probably didn’t help that image.

casablanca poolsideBut in Chile, as I sat lapping up the sunshine by a glistening swimming pool under perfect blue skies, listening to birds squawk in the palm trees of Matetic winery’s boutique hotel in Casablanca/San Antonio, I started to question my initial impressions of cool climate. It wasn’t cold here. In fact, it was positively balmy.

Casablanca might be a cool climate wine region, but visiting the area is not a frosty experience: days are filled with sunshine and warm lazy afternoons drinking copious amounts of wine as you tuck into fine Chilean cuisine. On this particular afternoon I was tucking into fresh and buttery potted crab with a glass of tropical fruit-filled Chardonnay, followed by a rosemary-crusted lamb fillet with a smooth, spicy Syrah. I couldn’t keep my top button done up, let alone keep my jacket on.

Casablanca fogWhile the day time temperatures and sunny climes make Casablanca a perfect holiday destination, the cooler nights mean you won’t lose any hours of sleep and can still rest nicely with a big blanket — which is good news for both people and grapes. The big difference in temperature from the sunny, skin ripening days compared to the crisp nights is what makes these wines so racy. And in the morning when you do finally wake from a perfect slumber, a fresh fog lays over the valley keeping the grapes cool and not awakening them too rudely either. The sun slowly appears through the fog, and then we are back to sunbathing. I understand why grapes do so well here: they can rest at night, and get some color during the day. And that is the secret to the success of cool climate wines … maintaining the cool acidity while developing their color, sugar and flavor profiles in the summery afternoons.

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