The Maule Valley region is the largest and one of the oldest Chilean wine regions, despite the separation and independence of its former sub-region, Curico. Located towards the southern end of Chile's Central Valley, Maule is slightly cooler than other northerly regions, and has much higher annual rainfall - most of it during the winter months. The centre of Maule's wine-growing area is 180 miles (290km) south of Santiago, although the region as a whole spans about 60 miles (100km) north to south. Today, the region has over 30,000 hectares of vine plantations. As with so many Chilean wine regions, Cabernet Sauvignon retains its long-standing position as the most planted variety. Nearly a third of Maule's vineyards are planted with this variety. However, newer plantations include Merlot, Cabernet Franc, and Carmenere are now also contributing significantly to Maule's red wines, with Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc making up the majority of the white wine production.