The De Martino Virtual Tasting

Bold flavors and ideas from one of Chile’s most well-known wine pioneers


“No boring wines.” That should be Marcelo Retamal's motto. The forward-looking winemaker of Chile's pioneering De Martino winery sat down with us recently for a Virtual Tasting. This was one of our most exciting virtual tastings, covering all the key points of Chile's geology and terroir, their leadership in promoting Carmenere and converting to organic farming. But the real fun here was Marcelo's honest and open take on winemaking.
Marcelo is not a fan of modern winemaking, eschewing modern yeasts, over-reliance on oak, and excessive and unneeded manipulation of wines, preferring instead to work directly in the vineyards to produce balanced, expressive wines. As he says while discussing his Estate Sauvignon Blanc, he doesn't want to produce the world's best Sauvignon Blanc. Instead he wants to produce a Sauvignon Blanc that, when tasted, makes one think of Sauvignon Blanc, and Maipo, and enjoying the wine.

Red grape image via shutterstock

Working Organically

De Martino has been a leader of organic farming in Chile, aided by the relatively dry climate of many of the best known appellations. Marcelo speaks about the motivation, live soils, and the challenges one faces even when the climate makes it easier.

Weather and Geology

Understanding Chile means understanding the weather, and how the layout of the country—narrow and framed by mountain ranges—affects the appellations. Marcelo explains how each appellation should be thought of not as a singular region, but as a range of terroirs that stretches from the cool coast to the dry, warm slopes of the Andes. We also discuss the traits the set apart De Martino's Sauvignon Blanc from other cool climate examples of this variety.


Marcelo discusses some of the problems of modern winemaking, such as cultured yeasts and how they are are impacting the diversity of wine the world over. Marcelo wants to make wines that speak of their place, not oak, yeasts or the hand of the winemaker. Marcelo thinks, and certainly hopes, that we're moving past our love affair with fancy winemaking, but he admits that there are still too many wines out there that are marred by oak or yeasts, rendering them anonymous.


Located just outside of Santiago, De Martino has a long history in Chile as a premium winery. Their leadership continues to this day as they have led the way promoting Carmenere and introducing it to market the world over. Carmenere is one of the greenest red varieties in the world, which has been an issue with many consumers. And while winemakers have in the past struggled to conceal this greenness, Marcelo looks to harness the green, allowing it to add spice and complexity to the De Martino wines. As Marcelo says, you don't always need ripe sweet, jammy wines—it's boring!

The Vineyards

Balance in wine is one of the goals of De Martino, or as Marcelo says, "the life of the wine is acidity." Identifying the right place to grow grapes based on weather and soil is the basis for all winemaking at De Martino. Listen in as Marcelo continues to inform us of the techniques used at De Martino to create their balanced, expressive style of Carmenere.


Marcelo is a bit of a contrarian when it comes to determining when to harvest, preferring to follow the ripeness of the skins as opposed to the ripeness of the grape seeds. But, according to Marcelo, the problem with waiting for ripe seeds, besides ending up with 17 percent alcohol, is that you lose the life of the wine—the aromas, flavors, and colors that the skins contribute to a finished wine.

Reinventing Chile

De Martino works with Malbec, and Marcelo is a fan of the grape and expounds on what it offers him and what Chilean Malbec is all about. Speaking of how things perform in Chile, Marcelo also offers a peek into the Chilean wine market, the options available to consumers in Chile, and how De Martino fits into the domestic market as they reinvent Chilean wine. One of the ways De Martino is reinventing Chilean wine is by helping to rescue some of the oldest vineyards in the country—parcels of Pais and Carignane, which until recently were used to produce inexpensive bulk wines. We end our talk with Marcelo talking of rescuing Chile's wine culture, a return to their roots, and the use of Amphora to produce Chile's first 16th century wine from the 21st century!

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