"Too many wines of Chile are like Pamela Anderson," complained a guy from a winery. "We are like Gwyneth Paltrow."
It’s funny and often times obnoxious the way wines can be described. In an inebriated state of mind, I once had a very heated argument over how the term ‘masculine’ was used to describe certain wines.
While I was clearly right, it was a good debate in how silly wine tastings can be.
The De Martino family is one of Chile’s pioneering producers of wine. They’re continuing this "tradition" of innovation by going into the campaign of "re-inventing Chile."
Chile is an interesting place for wine on a few levels. There’s not a lot of history, unlike some of the other places around the world, be it Australia, the United States or France.
Being young is often good, but at the same time, their industry was inexperienced and unfocused, producing only just "red" or "white" wines.
The notion of a varietal 40 years ago was relatively unknown, and for the longest time, what they thought was the Merlot varietal was actually Carménère—two cultivars that are farmed completely differently with equally distinct characteristics.
It resulted in growers picking what they thought was Merlot, which has a harvest date about two or three weeks earlier, meaning grapes were not at their peak of ripeness.
As such, Chilean Merlot became synonymous to crappy wine.
When they finally figured out their befuddlement, the industry looked towards the words of wine critics. In the ‘90s and early 2000s, wine writers such as Robert Parker, whose words are essentially worshipped, leaned in towards big plush fruity wines that were often high in alcohol.
Chile saw an opportunity to expand their wine industry and followed suit.
While these wines are quite pleasing initially, like Pamela Anderson, it is often superficial. Wine tasting notes will probably reflect the analogy by stating it's curvaceous, big, explosive, loud, full bodied and so on. These wines have a huge impact on the first sip but cannot sustain itself for the entire bottle.
De Martino has tried to cut back on this to make their wines sleeker, restrained, lighter in style, and one where you could quaff the entire bottle and not feel like you just spent a night with some Monarch vodka.
Essentially, wines you could take home to your family and not be embarrassed about; Gwyneth Paltrow, so to speak.
This elegance and brightness showed in their Legado range of wines. The 2011 Chardonnay, which came from the cool climate region of Limarí Valley, had nice lime and guava aromatics with lively acidity.
The 2011 Carménère carried on this theme of sleekness with a nose filled with coffee and dill pickles. It got a little carried away though, with a body that became wanting, which made it feel anemic.
This lack of heft was present in the 347 2012 Cabernet Sauvignon, generally a well-structured grape that felt awkward, like a teenager that listens to gangster rap but still gets his mom to send him to the mall.
Elegance in wine is good and all, but you also need something to grab onto when you go on the ride.
Thankfully the 347 Syrah answered this call with the typical peppery and spiced notes, crushed raspberries on the palette and needed acidity to keep the package tight and lithe.
Finally the most endowed wine of the lot, the Familia 2008, which compromises a blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Malbec. Smelling of creamy vanilla and blueberry, it had that all-important acid ending in a mix of dark chocolate and black fruits.
Not quite a Pamela Anderson as opposed to Scarlett Johansson—sexy and curvaceous with something to grab onto, but yet, still elegant.
Told you it can get pretty ridiculous.