Chatting with Sebastian De Martino

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1. What attracted you to Itata initially┬á– had you ever tasted wines from this region?

What attracted us was its history (quite unknown and mysterious even), the southern location (high rainfall and dry farming), the varieties not found in the northern regions, the maritime influence, the landscape dominated by rolling hills, plus the granite soils. Even in Chile it was difficult to find wines from Itata as in the past either they were sold locally or wine companies from the north would buy the grapes at low prices and blend them into their basic wines.

We therefore decided to organize a scouting trip where we discovered several new wines. Unfortunately, at the time although you could find great fruit behind the wines you would also see various “commercial” practices that militated against the expression of terroir. This was no doubt due to these local producers selling wines for blending or being advised by oenologists with different philosophies.

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2. How different is Itata to the north (I mean the area around Santiago) in terms of the people and the culture?

The area is where ChileÔÇÖs first vineyards were planted and the original vignerons are still found. Properties are smaller and more fragmented (no fencing, for example). In the north the wine culture followed the “Bordeaux” model since the wealthy families travelled in the 19th century to France to learn from the examples there. The south, however, is wild with a long standing history that we are just starting to rediscover ourselves.

3. Why did Itata lose its fame as a wine region (considering this region was important in the origin of vine planting and culture in Chile)?

Good question – we are still trying to understand what happened! Most likely since the arrival of the French practices in the 19th century, and the planting of vines in the northern regions of Chile, everyone thought that the wines of Itata were in the “past” and no longer relevant.

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4. How many wineries other than De Martino are producing wines from Itata region alone (ie not blends between two or more regions?

Besides the local producers, some of whom are making surprisingly good wines, there are about 8 companies which have come down from the “north” to produce wines in the area. The style of these wines spans a broad spectrum and tends to reflect the philosophy of each of the wineries behind them. We are proud though to be the first who committed to the region by acquiring a small plot containing historical old vines and field blends of varieties that we are just starting to understand – this proves that we arrived to Itata to stay.

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5. What do you see as the future of this region?

Itata, in our opinion, has a very bright future. As I have mentioned there are few places where you can find such old vines, dry farmed, granite soils and unique grape varieties. The history of the place is just beginning to be rediscovered and the style of the wines – or the possibility which Itata offers to produce wines – are not found in in the northern regions of the country and, in our experience, in few places of the New World.┬á We feel we are still just scratching the surface, and learning about the potential of the area; there will be more to come.

6. Are there any other regions in the world that you think have the same feel as Itata?

Parts of the region resemble Galicia or Ribera Sacra, whilst the fruity style of wines tend to remind one more of Beaujolais (the natural producers who work there) or perhaps even the new Languedoc. The wines are defined by their vibrant character and nerve – wines that will make you smile.

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