Chilean wine producer Viña De Martino’s vision to ‘Reinvent Chile’ includes showing the world that Chile has the potential to make world-class wines that are true reflections of their origin. A couple of weeks ago, I had the pleasure of attending a tasting of De Martino wines organized by the Canadian Association of Professional Sommeliers. Guy Hooper, De Martino’s Export Director for North America and Asia, presented the wines.
Viña De Martino
De Martino was founded in the Maipo Valley in 1934 by Pietro De Martino Pascualone who arrived in Chile from Italy in search of a place to make wine. The estate now has 300 hectares of certified organic vineyards. The 3rd and 4th generations of the De Martino family are now in charge of the winery. Their focus is on premium and super premium wines.
Organic, Sustainable, and Carbon Neutral Wines
In 1998, the conversion to organic viticulture began, with the first 100% certified organic vintage in 2001. Mr Hooper explained De Martino’s belief that “healthy soils produce healthy grapes which produce great wines”. They are now the second largest producer of organic wines in Chile. In 2007, the winery began to implement a number of sustainable practices aimed at reducing their carbon emissions. Their Water Treatment Plant has made them the first winery in the world to generate carbon bonds. In 2009, they became the first carbon-neutral winery in Latin America and released Nuevo Mundo, Latin America’s first carbon-neutral wine.
In addition to their own vineyards, De Martino has long-term contracts with about 40 other grape-growers. Even in these vineyards, De Martino overseas all that goes on to ensure they are purchasing the best possible grapes.
Too Much Sunshine is Not Always a Good Thing!
Even though Chile is what is sometimes referred to as a ‘winemaker’s paradise’, the vineyards are not without problems. Mr Hooper admitted that too much sunshine is not always a good thing – the grapes can get sunburned. In order to combat sunburn, De Martino and other producers, have begun planting vineyards in an east-west direction instead of the more typical north-south direction. This, along with canopy management practices, can reduce the amount of sunburn on the grapes. The abundant sunshine can also cause the sugars in the grapes to rise to very high levels, producing wines that are very high in alcohol. De Martino is currently experimenting with ways to naturally reduce the amount of alcohol in the wine, such as harvesting the grapes earlier and various canopy management practices.
Legado Chardonnay 2010 Limari Valley: 50% fermented in French oak with 12% undergoing malolactic fermentation. Aromas of tropical fruit, peach, guava, pineapple, vanilla, and white blossoms. Fresh acidity cleanses the palate with flavours of yellow fruit, vanilla, cream, and smoke. Good length. Great value at around $15. Private order through Halpern (halpernwine.com)
Legado Carmenere 2010 Maipo Valley: Aged 12 months in 100% French oak. This is a very young Carmenere showing blackberry, strawberry, coffee grounds, dusty earth, dried leaves, spice, and some green aromas typical of many Carmeneres. Crushed blackberry and pencil shavings dominate the palate with soft tannins. The 2008 vintage is to be released in Vintages at the LCBO on November 22 for approximately $15-$17.
Alto de Piedras Carmenere 2009 Maipo Valley: This single vineyard wine was aged 14 months in 100% French oak. An opaque ruby colour with aromas of ripe plums, blueberry, blackberry, dark raspberry, cloves, and coconut, with a pretty floral note. This wine is happily lacking the green vegetal aromas and flavours that can be typical of Carmenere. Firm, fuzzy tannins with ripe dark berries and a hint of pencil shavings on the long finish. A very good wine, but a bit pricier at $35-$45.
Legado Syrah Reserva 2010 Choapa Valley: 12 months in French oak. Very complex aromas of violets, black cherry, plum, raspberry, fruitcake, dusty earth, and cracked black pepper. Lots of spicy fruit on the palate, with black pepper, and fine tannins. Good length. An excellent value at only $16 to $18. Private order through Halpern.
Las Cruces 2008 Cachopoal Valley: The grapes are from a dry-farmed vineyard planted in 1957. A field blend of 60% Malbec, 30% Carmenere, 10% other grapes (Tannat, Cabernet Sauvignon, and others). Aromas of chocolate and mocha, spicy dark fruit, plum, and dark cherry. Juicy on the palate with a firm structure and dusty tannins. A long lingering finish. Very Good. $35 to $40.
La Aguada 2008 Maule Valley: The grapes are from a small dry farmed vineyard in the Coastal Mountain Range of the Maule Valley planted in 1955. A field blend of about 90% Carignan with the remainder being Malbec and Cinsault. Aged 14 months in French oak. An enticing wine with complex aromas of spicy dark chocolate, ripe black cherry, dark raspberry, and violets. Big and bold on the palate with an abundance of very firm tannins, flavours of spice, earth and dark fruit, and a long length. A couple of years in the bottle will help this wine mellow out a bit more.