Real elegance from Chile

De Martino’s wine maker Marcelo Retamal was in Dublin to show the estate’s premium range
De Martino’s wine maker Marcelo Retamal was in Dublin to show the estate’s premium range

Chilean wine producer De Martino recently held a premium tasting at the Dublin Contemporary Art Event, where Helen Coburn discovered characterful offerings



18 November 2011

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For retailers and importers, it’s probably whacking a dead horse at this stage to insist that Chile’s wines show clear regional diversity. Most of the trade is aware of it already and trying to convey it to customers. Some help is certainly at hand in the shape of producer De Martino, who recently held a small, premium tasting in the somewhat sparse surroundings of the Dublin Contemporary Art Event.

Nothing sparse about the wines, though. Although just eight wines were sampled, they ranged from supremely elegant to fruity new world with some characterful offerings in between. First up was Legado Limari Chardonnay 2010 (€10.30 trade); here was something like a very young Burgundy, with slightly creamy citrus aroma and, on palate, fresh lemon, again with that intriguing hint of cream. It was followed by Single Vineyard Quebrada Seca Chardonnay 2009 (€15.10) and at once you knew that this was from a warmer situation, with its light toast aromas and hints of tropical fruit to the citrus flavours. There was a lovely dry edge to the citrus and a tasty, quite complex finish.

Both wines were conspicuously elegant and, for those allergic to sulpher there was more good news. According to wine maker, Marcelo Retamal, hardly any sulpher is used to stabilise these wines. “We rely mainly on the oak and on great care at the various critical points in order to keep oxidation and microbial activity at bay,” he says. Those of you who sometimes find that you get a hammer head from just one glass of white wine at lunch should give these wines a whirl.

Legado Maipo Carmenere 2010 (€10.50) was simpler stuff, showing the typical hedgerow aromas and flavour notes of this tricky grape, along with soft tannins and slightly fat raspberry jelly fruits. Single Vineyard Alto de Piedras Carmenere 2009 €15.10), also from Maipo, was decidedly more sophisticated. Aromas were of creamy plum, and flavours were similar with a lick of slightly dry tannin and a hint of tar. A good food wine this, perfect for Christmas game dishes or meat cooked in red wine sauce.

The black olive and plum aromas of classic French syrah could be picked up on the nose of Legado Choapa Syrah 2010 (€10.50). Plum and olive carry through to the palate and there’s a touch of austerity, which will send the buffs debating as to whether a touch of viognier would have rounded things out or whether the firm plum and berry flavours are fine as they are. It was enjoyable and interesting and could work well with goose. Altos Los Toros Syrah 2008 (€15.10) is from Elqui Valley and is in total contrast, with warm, ripe plum aromas and smooth plummy flavours and just a cut of those classic olives. Lovers of cool climate Australian shiraz from areas like Yarra Valley will find this Chilean very much to their liking.

Single Vineyard El Leon Carignan 2009 (€15.10), from Maule Valley, has more of a red berry feel than a French or Spanish counterpart. Tannins are rather light and, while enjoyable, it seemed to lack the complexity and weight of the other wines shown. Not so, Old Bush Vines Las Cruces 2008. This is a small production wine made from an old Cachapoal Valley field blend planted, says Retamal, in 1957, and largely left to its own devices. Left alone, perhaps, but the planting density was 5,600 vines per hectare, almost certain to lead to nicely concentrated wine. Malbec appears to account for around 60% of the plants and there is carmenere and cabernet as well. The result is a delicious wine, which combines the generous fruit of the malbec and carmenere with the structure of cabernet, throwing in a few cassis cabernet notes for good measure. According to Monica Murphy of importers Febvre, there’s very little available, but I got the impression that inquiries might be rewarded. Of a run of excellent tastings, this was one of the stand-out sessions and the wines would be perfect gifts for the festive season. Details from Febvre at



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