Words: Henry Yuen (Chinese posting: http://taiyangbao.ca/author/henryyuen/?variant=zh-hans )
Mid-Autumn Festival and Thanksgivings are good indications of the arrival of a new season – time for the fall release of various wines. I had the pleasure of tasting some outstanding wines and attending an educational tasting session at ICON Fine Wines and Spirits. Headed by big names in the industry: Jay Garnett, Kim Trowbridge and David Walker, this boutique wine agency prides itself with exceptional product portfolios, a more intimate ambiance and personalized services.
De Martino Winery
Over the years I have gone to quite a few wine tasting events and winemakers dinners etc. I got to meet the winemakers and talked to the wineries proprietors. However, at wine tasting in a group setting, the interaction is usually not a long one as there are other people looking for the same opportunity. In winemaker dinners, the winemaker usually does most of the talking and the Q & A session is often a brief one.
So when I was told I would get the opportunity to meet one on one with the winemaker from De Martino Winery from Chile, I jumped at this exciting chance without hesitation even though I had visited their winery last November and thoroughly enjoyed their wines. How often do you have the winemaker all to yourself? I learned a lot from that session as the conversation was free flowing and there was no disruption to sidetrack the focus.
The winery has a relatively long history with almost eighty years in operation and currently operated by the fourth generation of the De Martino family. Head winemaker, Marco De Martino, is full of energy, passion and progressive in his outlook as to the direction of the winery and its viticulture practices. Fifteen years ago, the winery already envisioned its vineyards to be in an organic environment stressing sustainability in its viticulture practices. Today, they are the second largest organic wine producers in Chile. Not only that, a feat not a lot of wineries could even dream of is that their wines are the first carbon-neutral wines in Latin America meaning they are as environmental friendly and responsible as possible!
Marco is adamant that his wines must be good and that all the elements in their vineyards respect the land and provide sustainability for future generations. Most vines are planted in the east-western direction to get the maximum exposure of sunlight. No canopy style of vine management is employed because canopy style while comes with higher yield usually result in lower quality grapes. In terms of winemaking, Marco’s preference is a balanced approach and consequently no new oak is used but rather encourages the wine to develop itself rather than force feeding the result in.
With all the accolades and recognition, how good are his wines? The Legardo Limari Valley Chardonnay 2011 is a well-crafted with soft buttery texture and a hint of mouth-watering saltiness upon entry. It is lightly oaked to give it the right structure and smoothness. The Organico Maipo Valley Cabernet Malbec 2010 portraits a well-balanced blend with lots of black fruits and prune aroma. It has soft tannins and a hint of herbs that enthrals the palate, for under $20, it is a very good value wine. The Legado Choapa Valley Syrah 2012 is made with grapes sourced from vineyards in the northern cooler region at the foothills of the Andes. This wine is medium-bodied with lots of plum, black current and adequate tannins. The Legado Cabernet Sauvignon 2009 is a palate-pleaser with lots of black fruits, cassis and currants. 12 months in oak provides a beautiful smokiness and cocoa aroma. The Legado Carmenere 2011 is my favourite. All that you ask for in a fabulous Chilean Carmenere is in this bottle – no more, no less!
All these De Martino wines are priced competitively; there is no down side to stocking them up for the upcoming festive season. It’s nice to chat with Marco and further understand what long term vision of De Martino Winery is all about. Of course, tasting the result of that commitment is the best way to embrace their philosophy and effort which deserves our attention and a big salute!
This South Australia winery in Australia is truly a family business. Three generations of making wines at ClareValley since 1969 and has been successfully passing on the winemaking expertise from one generation to the other, it has deep roots in the community.
Occupying 178 hectare by the Wakefield River, the vineyard has been producing top quality grapes on terra rosa soil (red brown soil loaming over limestone). Combining with warm days and cool nights, the terroir at Clare Valley boasts perfect conditions for growing Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. The 2010 Shiraz is a fine Australian classic, a lovely Shiraz that has lots of red fruit, berries and plum aroma combined with hints of spice and cocoa; and the benefit from both French and American oak treatment embraces nicely in the finish.
The 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon is a fine expression of the virtue of this juicy red varietal. The aroma of black current, cassis and prune is engrossing. On the palate, it is jammy with a smoky hint followed by a velvety finish thanks to 12 months in French oak (5% new).
The aromatic 2011 Riesling with seductive citrus and baked apple bouquet is well-balanced. The acidity is refined producing a not-too-sweet palate feel which allows this wine to showcase its refreshing and crispy goodness for pairing with most Asian cuisine. Generations of strong winemaking in the family secures the consistency needed to crafting good wines that puts the family time-honoured philosophy intact.