Bio Bio Valley, which is one of Chile's most southern wine-producing regions, has enjoyed a dramatic rise to fame since the start of the new millennium. The global appetite for its crisp, aromatic wine styles is the major reason, coupled with the determination of Chilean winemakers to prove they can produce more than Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Just as Casablanca has done with Sauvignon Blanc and Chardonnay, Bio Bio has provided an excellent place for Chilean winegrowers to work with varieties such as Riesling, Gewurztraminer and Viognier.
The region lies 270 miles (435km) south of the Chilean capital of Santiago, between the Andes Mountains and the Coastal Range. Itata Valley is just north of Bio Bio, and the Malleco Valley is the only commercial wine region further south. The port city of Concepcion is just west of the region, on the Pacific coast.
Bio Bio Valley is one of Chile's more extreme wine-producing regions, experiencing more wind, rain and climatic variation than most of the rest of the country. The cool climate – and the extended growing season it allows – is much better suited to the development of complex aromatics in white wine than the hot, dry climates of the Maipo Valley or Cachapoal further north.
The region sits at a latitude of 36°S, which is mirrored in the northern hemisphere by the southern regions of Spain and the similarly cool and windy region of Monterey in the United States. Altitude is not a factor that comes into play here; few vineyards require the cooling effect it provides and most sit between 150ft and 600ft (50–200m) above sea level. It is interesting to compare the differences between Argentina's distribution of white varieties and that in Chile. High altitude allows white grapes to grow quite successfully in Argentina's mountainous regions – some 1000 miles (1500km) north of Bio Bio.
The rustic Moscatel de Alejandria and Pais were the main grape varieties grown in Bio Bio in the 20th Century, but the future is likely to be dominated by the aromatic varieties of northern France and Germany. Pinot Noir may also prove successful here, although it is unlikely to outshine those produced in the Leyda and Casablanca valleys in the north. Like the Malleco Valley to the south, Bio Bio is among the wine-growing areas of the world whose progress will be of interest to many, particularly investors in the Chilean wine industry.