About this WINE
De Martino is one of the most progressive and exciting names on the Chilean wine scene, deservedly named Chilean Winery of the year in 2011. Through a network of intellectual partnerships and vineyard acquisition, it has quickly built up a reputation for organic viticulture of the highest quality, farming from over 350 different vineyards.
The corporate vision focuses on sustainability, terroir, and, by logical extension, excellence. By concentrating on the very best sites for the varieties in question, be they in Limari, Elqui or Maipo, and by the development of a world class winemaking team, De Martino now sits at the very top of the Chilean vinous hierarchy.
The Alto Piedras vineyards make up 5 hectares of the sub-Denominacion of the Isla de Maipo, a de facto island as the vines are surrounded by two branches of the Maipo River. Two other self-evident truths are located in the nomenclature; firstly that the terrain is rocky, volcanic gravel to be precise and secondly that the vines are quite high up. Chile’s indigenous grape, Carmenère, is here aged for 18 months in new French oak.
A viticultural paradise with hot, sunny days, chilly nights, little rain and cooling breezes, Chile is famous for being the only wine-producing country free of the devastating phylloxera bug. Despite the rise of neighbouring Argentina, which produces twice as much wine, Chile remains South America's (and arguably the world's) finest source of well-priced, excellent-quality varietal wines with sleek, fruity reds and ripe, clean whites. Rosé, sparkling and even sweet wines also do well here. As ambitious winemakers search for better sites (especially higher up and in cooler areas), and constantly improve techniques in the winery and vineyard, some truly fine examples are beginning to emerge. Joint ventures like Almaviva, (a partnership between Concha y Toro and Mouton-Rothschild), lead the way and many are following.
The vine was introduced to Chile's Central Valley by the Spanish Conquistadores in the mid-16th century, but 1851 marked the turning point for the Chilean wine industry, when Don Silvestre Ochagavia Echazarreta imported and planted a range of French vine varieties. As phylloxera ravaged Europe, Chile was the only country left with healthy vines. Political and economic turmoil, combined with falling consumption, put the brakes on the country's development in the 1970s and 1980s, but once democracy was restored, investment (both internal and external), equipment and expertise flooded in. With the introduction of temperature-controlled stainless-steel vats, cool storage, and oak barrels, Chile underwent a winemaking revolution.
Chile's most important red grape is Cabernet Sauvignon, yielding increasingly elegant and concentrated wines and some very good Bordeaux blends. Some have seen the discovery of old Bordeaux grape, Carmenère (aka Grand Vidure) as Chile's unique selling point, as Malbec has been for Argentina. This remains a moot point but, long mistaken for Merlot, with which it is still usually blended, Carmenère produces complex, earthy reds with rich, blackcurrant flavours and firm, ripe, tannins.
Chardonnay is the most popular white, especially from cooler regions like the Casablanca and San Antonio valleys. Thanks to a replanting programme which saw genuine Sauvignon Blanc replace its lower-quality imitators, some excellent examples are now produced, offering a halfway house between the grassy herbaceousness of Sancerre and the piercing, tropical fruit intensity of New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc. Juicy but elegant Pinot Noirs and rich, stylish Syrahs are beginning to make a reputation for themselves while Riesling, Viognier and even Gewürztraminer all show promise.
Hemmed in by the Andes to the east, the Pacific to the west, the Atacama Desert to the north and Antarctica to the south, Chile's climate is Mediterranean. The only down side is the lack of rain, with irrigation required virtually everywhere. Most of the country's vines are in the southern half of the country, centred on the 1,000km-long plateau of the Central Valley south of the capital, Santiago. This area is home to Chile's most famous region, the hot, dry Maipo Valley with its Napa Valley-like Cabernets and ripe Chardonnays with good acidity.
Further south is the larger Rapel Valley, with its Colchagua, Cachapoal and Apalta sub-regions. This hot region produces succulent, full-flavoured reds, the country's best Merlot and some very fine Cabernets. The Central Valley is also home to the slightly less hot Curicó Valley, and the cooler and wetter Maule Valley, Chile's oldest wine region.
Here, and the areas below it at the foot of the Central Valley, Itata, Bío-Bío and Malleco, are Chile's most undeveloped but also some of its most promising. The hilly, cooler coastal regions of Aconcagua, San Antonio and Casablanca, west and north-west of Santiago, have already shown the way, especially for white wines, with the latter probably producing Chile's best.
The most famous red wine grape in the world and one of the most widely planted.
It is adaptable to a wide range of soils, although it performs particularly well on well-drained, low-fertile soils. It has small, dusty, black-blue berries with thick skins that produce deeply coloured, full-bodied wines with notable tannins. Its spiritual home is the Médoc and Graves regions of Bordeaux where it thrives on the well-drained gravel-rich soils producing tannic wines with piercing blackcurrant fruits that develop complex cedarwood and cigar box nuances when fully mature.
The grape is widely planted in California where Cabernet Sauvignon based wines are distinguished by their rich mixture of cassis, mint, eucalyptus and vanilla oak. It is planted across Australia and with particular success in Coonawarra where it is suited to the famed Terra Rossa soil. In Italy barrique aged Cabernet Sauvignon is a key component in Super Tuscans such as Tignanello and Sassicaia, either on its own or as part of a blend with Sangiovese.