Sebastián de Martino
Pietro De Martino Pascualone founded this estate in 1934, moving to Chile from his native Italy in search of a perfect place to make wine. He found an idyllic spot in the Maipo Valley, around 50km from Santiago, in between the Andes mountains and the Pacific ocean.
He settled in a town called Isla de Maipo, so called because it was surrounded by branches of the Maipo river, and although these have since dried up, they have provided excellent soils for the vines which are now planted in their place.
Today De Martino is managed by the third and fourth generations of the family, and has 300 hectares of vines. What sets De Martino apart is the leadership of winemaker Marco Retamal and the increasing influence of the new generation, Marco and Sebastián de Martino, who have been bitten by the wine bug and are set to do interesting things in the future. Marcelo Retamal is a very talented winemaker and viticulturist and has a more challenging vision of how Chilean viticulture should develop than most.
Part of his contract is an annual one-month period of study abroad looking at vineyards across the world. His visits have taught him that too many Chilean vineyards have been planted in too 'safe' a climate and that more extreme vineyards are necessary. For example, despite making good Casablanca pinot noir he stopped making it because he wanted to make a much better example. He is convinced that one needs a more continental climate for pinot, with snow in winter.
He has recently been inspired by how well some carmenères from the 1980s have matured. These were picked at 13% and he is now picking all wines much earlier - even carmenère, one of the latest ripening of all varieties, is picked at 13% instead of 14.5%. This reduces alcohol and introduces a fresher register of flavours. He is also minimising overt oak influence and is maturing the best wines in 5000 litre foudres from Stockinger in Austria. Fresh from a visit to Georgia, where amphoras are still used, he has been using these to ferment cinsault.
Marcelo, aided by Eduardo Jordan, has scoured Chile from north to south, seeking out the best and most interesting combinations of climate, soil and grape variety and has used over 350 sites so far. The estate's various wine ranges are a reflection of their discoveries, and the single-vineyard wines (eg. Limávida, planted 1945, Las Cruces, planted 1965, La Aguada 1955, etc) which have resulted from this search are particularly impressive.
The Legado range, from which The Society frequently buys, is designed to express the individual characters of Chile's winemaking valleys. The carmenère is especially good, which isn't surprising considering that De Martino was the first estate to export wines made from this grape, and are now seen as pioneers of the variety.
The Gallardía del Itata range is sourced from the Itata valley, 400km south of Santiago where viticulture was first practised in Chile as rainfall is 1100mm a year and no irrigation is necessary. Gallardía is a Spanish word for bravery, but is also the name of the flower frequently found in Itata vineyards, and the range was created to reflect the wines' often floral character.
Sebastian de Martino tells us about Chile’s different wine zones