Chile: Where 1 million bottles is considered ’boutique’

By March 19, 2014Winemakers

Day 3 brought us to some pretty huge wineries. Santa Ema, which at 2 million bottles, considers itself small to medium size for Chilean standards. This is a family run winery with vineyards near the coast and in the Andes at 3,000 feet. We had a wonderful sauvignon blanc with good minerality and the pineapple/ pear aromas would pair well with ceviche. We were also served the Reserve merlot 2011 which was given 90 pts by Parker 2 years ago with the comment that if more merlots were like this, pinot noir would not be as popular. Our 3rd wine was the Amplus carmenere 2011, 75% with the balance syrah and carignan. This is one of Santa Ema’s most expensive wines at $30. We were told that in 1994 a European amphelographer was visiting Chile and was shown a merlot vineyard but he observed that it was really carmenere, a variety extinct in France.

Santa Ema wines can be ordered in the States through Puro Chile.

Our lunch visit was to nearby DeMartino, whose motto is “reinventing Chile.” They pride themselves on innovation, such as being among the first in Chile to attempt to map the different terroirs and match the best grapes to grow in each area. They also were pioneers in Chile to use carbonic maceration and also discovered that in the southern hemisphere because of generous sun, grapes need to be planted in rows running east to west to give shade, whereas in European countries such as France and Germany, they need to use North/South exposure to maximize sun. They are also pioneers in the use of  60 year old tinajas, clay jugs very reminiscent of the quevirs of Georgia. DeMartino finds their tinajas in southern Chile in backyards where people use them for storage of grain.

During our tasting segment, we had the 2012 chardonnay, with DeMartino’s typical minimal use of wood. They firmly believe that use of oak barrels should be minimalized. We also had their Viejas Tinajas ’12, a blend of carignan and cinsault, fermented and aged in the clay amphorae. There was very little noticeable tannin due to the carbonic maceration. This was followed by Alto de Piedras ’11, 100% carmenere; Las Cruces ’07, made from a field blend of 6 grapes, mostly malbec; Alto los Toros ’10, 86% shiraz and 14% petit verdot.

At our alfresco lunch we were served the Legado cabernet ’11 and the carignan ’08 with the buffet and for an aperitif, the dry moscato. I must comment that the weather has been sublime: 80/85F during the day, 60F at night with deep blue skies everyday. All our tastings and lunches have been alfresco.

At 1.7 million bottles, DeMartino calls itself a small winery!

Our last visit was to the lavish Tarapacá Vineyards. The beautifully landscaped grounds lended themselves perfectly to an alfresco tasting of their Gran Reserva sauvignon Blanc ’13 from Leyda with  saltiness and minerality and less tropical fruit than the sauvignon blancs of Casablanca; Carmenere ’12 with a pepper aroma and soft tannins; and their Gran Reserva Cabernet ’11, 85% cab with 15% cab franc.

Tarapacá is Quechua for hidden tree and the winery produces 16 million bottles.

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