The World Wine Travel group, one of the blogging groups I am part of is looking at wines of Chile for Earth day this month. I have tasted a number of Chilean wines through the years that I have really enjoyed and met lots of producers as well. One of the wines that has always really impressed me is De Martino. De Martino was established in 1934. They work all over Chile and are a winery I admire for their products, their attention to organic farming and sustainability, and their carbon neutral status. They have been organic since 1998 and were the first Chilean winery to become carbon-neutral in 2009.
They have a series of wines called Ungrafted. As phylloxera never got to Chile, it is possible for grapes to grow on their own rootstocks. These rootstocks can express their terroir in the purest of ways. The vineyard where these vines are is located in Guarilihue, in the south of the Itata Valley. Vines were first planted in Itata in 1551. The area has a martime climate with high levels of rain. The vineyard grows on granite slopes and is of course manually harvested and plowed on horseback. They make a Cinsault and a Muscat in this series.
Years ago, I was able to taste wines of theirs from these vineyards that were aged in amphora. A line they call Viejas Tinajas. Viejas Tinajas are old terracotta amphorae. The ones used to make the De Martino wine are over 100 years old. Itata Valley is near the city of Concepcion. The vineyards are about 22 kilometers from the Pacific Ocean. In addition to abundant rainfall, there is considerable diurnal temperature variation.
These were also a Muscat and a Cinsault. The Muscat was made from ungrafted vines planted in 1975. The wine undergoes extensive maceration on the skins in the amphorae for six months. The wine is then separated from the skins and put back into the amphorae for another six months before bottling. Nothing except sulfur dioxide is added to the wine, neither yeast nor other substances. It was also unfiltered. The wine had great nutty character and the floral and grapey fruit aromas of Muscat. The texture and structure of the wine was also interesting with considerable acidity.
The second wine was the Viejas Tinajas Cinsault.This wine came from bush trained, ungrafted vines. Cinsault tends to have low acidity and that is why they chose a vineyard close to the coast to enhance the acidity in the grapes. Again, the wine matured in the amphorae without the addition of yeast or enzymes, only a small dose of sulfur dioxide was added to preserve the wine when it was being transported.
Granite soils help the Cinsault to grow and brought nice minerality, sapidity and acidity to the fore. The wine had lovely herbaceous notes and red fruit. I was impressed also to find out that these tinajas were actually part of the history of this country and were used in earlier centuries to transport Pisco and other liquids.
Writing about those lovely wines brought me back to thinking about my incredible 2008 trip to Chile, a country I loved. From Patagonia to Atacama to Easter Island and everything in between, it is truly a marvelous trip for nature, wine, and people. My son just asked me about Chile yesterday looking at a map of this long and fascinating country. I see a trip in the future.