Ricardo Grellet may be one of the most well-known wine personalities in South America. A key figure in the industry for more than 20 years, Grellet has worked his way up through the ranks, occupying positions in sales and trade, in the wine press, and in restaurants and bars. In 2008 he was crowned Best Sommelier in Chile, and since then he has gone on to become president of the Pan-American Alliance of Sommeliers (APAS) and vice president of the International Association of Sommeliers (ASI) in the Americas. He is currently the president of the National Association of Sommeliers of Chile (ASCL). Beyond good connections in the industry though, Grellet has good connections on the ground.
Here, Grellet gives us his top picks for 48 hours of imbibing in Chile’s capital city.
Santiago’s airport is a major transport hub for South America, and you can be downtown within 25 minutes by taxi. There are direct flights from the U.S., Europe, and neighboring countries in South America. The city is also the gateway to Chile’s Central Valley wine regions—with Maipo, Cachapoal, Colchagua, Casablanca, San Antonio, and Aconcagua all accessible by car within an hour or two.
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Where to Stay
“I have always loved the Ritz,” Grellet says of his favorite Santiago hotel, located in the upmarket Las Condes neighborhood. “The sauna is amazing,” he says. “It completely absorbs you and won’t let you go!” Grellet confides that even though he lives in Santiago, he sometimes takes his wife for an overnight stay at the Ritz to enjoy dinner at the bistro, followed in the morning by a relaxing brunch and sauna time. “It’s one of the most recommendable hotels of the city.”
For visitors with less time on their hands, Grellet recommends using Hotel Loreto as a base. It has more of a B&B vibe and is set in the bohemian Recoleta neighborhood, just a quick walk from the nightlife of Bellavista and the museums of Bellas Artes. Says Grellet, “I always recommend it for people who are here on holiday and want to be near the city center.”
Where to Eat
To start the day right, you’ll want to begin with something sweet at La Chocolatine, Grellet’s go-to for fresh bread, pastries, and coffee. “The breads are delicious, and it isn’t expensive at all,” he says. “The scrambled eggs are a good option for breakfast, too.”
For a more classic Chilean breakfast, Grellet says you can’t go wrong with Fuente Chilena, a chain across Santiago that has good variety and prices. He recommends the traditional pan amasado, which is a typical Chilean country loaf. As you might rightly guess, Chileans love bread. In fact, they consume approximately 86 kilograms (around 190 pounds) of bread per person annually.
For lunch on the run, Grellet likes to have something light at Quinoa, a vegetarian restaurant offering a “healthy, peaceful lunch with a good crowd.” The only problem at Quinoa, says Grellet, is the lack of wine. “Having lunch without wine is like toasting with a glass of water!” he jokes. If wine with lunch is a must-have, he recommends Margo in Parque Arauco; it has a nice, breezy terrace and is perfect for good food, conversation, and a few glasses of wine over a midday meal in the summer months.
For dinner, Grellet says that one of the truly unmissable spots for anyone visiting Santiago for the first time is Peumayen in Bellavista. “It is totally unique in Chile,” he says. “It’s a little off the radar, but it offers an ancestral Chilean cuisine that you won’t be able to eat in any other place on the planet—all local Chilean ingredients and just tremendous.”
Asian cuisine is a big deal in Chile, and for Grellet there’s no better source than Naoki. He recommends grabbing a stool at the bar and ordering a round of tiraditos (Latin American–style sashimi) while you chat with chefs Marcos and Sergio to find out what came in fresh by boat that morning, and to inquire about their excellent sea urchin. “Just ask them what’s fresh—and if there are any new creations,” Grellet advises. “You have to be careful on the spice too … tell them your limit beforehand. That way you get the best appreciation of the exquisite cuisine of Naoki.”
When he’s in the mood for meat, Grellet heads to Carnal, where he says you can find good cuts of meat at a fair price—and great respect for cooking times. “I love to eat there on the terraza on a summer afternoon,” he says, “with a good bottle of wine.”
Where to Drink
Grellet says that the best bar in Santiago at the moment is Siete Negronis in Bellavista. He suggests stopping by for drinks after a meal. “They don’t bother with fireworks but just focus on good food and really great cocktails,” he says. With seven Negronis fixed on the menu, and a couple seasonal variants often moonlighting, too, this is a great spot—especially for lovers of this classic Italian sipper.
For wine lovers, Grellet recommends two top-notch wine bars. The first is the long-reigning queen of the wine scene in Santiago, Bocanáriz. Located in the heart of the Lastarria neighborhood, this popular bar features a selection of nearly 400 Chilean wines. “There are few wine bars like this in Chile, and you just have to go visit it,” says Grellet. His other top recommendation is Les Dix Vins in Vitacura. It’s a wine shop but offers tastings and an in situ restaurant. “If you want to try lots of wines,” he says, “this is the place.”
For the last beer of the night, Grellet suggests heading to Red Frog Bar in Providencia. It’s run by his friend Philip IIi Barake—a somm who earned the title Best Habano Cigar Sommelier at the International Cigar Sommelier Competition in 2010. Grellet says it’s the perfect place for a nightcap: “If you want a pint of beer before bed, the service here is quick, it’s central, and it’s pretty informal.”
On the other hand, if you want to dance into the wee hours, Massatto in Vitacura is where Grellet recommends you close out the evening. “The drinks are nothing sophisticated,” he says, “but there’s a good crowd moving to a slightly more Caribbean beat.”
Where to Retox on Sunday
After a long Saturday night on the town, Grellet strongly suggests heading to the Hotel W for a retox brunch. “Bubbly, Bloody Marys, and oysters,” he says. “It’s a handsome crowd, but you can go with family, friends, your partner—whomever you fancy!”
Amanda Barnes is a British wine writer who since 2009 has been based in South America, where she specializes in the wines and regions of Argentina, Chile, Brazil, and Uruguay and writes the South America Wine Guide. Ever footloose, she is currently on a mission to travel Around the World in 80 Harvests.