A Truly Exciting Chilean Red

MARY DOWEY selects a smooth, peppery Chilean red as her bottle of the week …

De Martino Viejas Tinajas Cinsault, DO Itata 2015

Bored by too many dull Chilean wines, by any chance? I have been, I’ll admit – but there are exceptions to every tedious trend and here comes one. Made from grapes grown in the forgotten region of Itata close to the Pacific Ocean and vinified in ancient clay pots (viejas tinajas), it’s the tastiest, liveliest, most distinctive wine from Chile that I’ve come across in a long while.

With aromas of fresh red fruits, herbs and a tiny hint of spice overlaid with an appealing earthiness, it’s smooth, peppery, light on its feet and wonderfully appetising. Unlike most Chilean reds it is made from Cinsault – a grape variety which arrived in the country in the 1930s but which slipped out of favour when Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon took off. But there are other intriguing reasons why it tastes so different.

On a visit to Dublin earlier this year, Sebastian De Martino, fourth-generation member of one of Chile’s most respected wine families, described how the company radically changed its approach in 2010 after what he termed a ‘dark decade’.

’As a family, we’d begun to have doubts about our high-scoring, blockbuster wines for some years. My grandfather sat us down around the table with a few bottles and said: “Do any of you enjoy drinking this s**t?” The answer was no. So we set about producing wines that are much purer and more restrained.’

The process was helped along by the discovery of old vines and ancient clay amphorae. ‘These were widely used for wine-making in Chile several hundred years ago,’ Sebastian explained. ‘Initially we found 14 and we liked the wines we trialled in them. Now we’re using over 80.’ If you’re up to speed on trends you’ll know that wines made in amphorae in the traditional way are popping up everywhere these days. Fans of natural wines will also be glad to hear that Viejas Tinajas Cinsault is made with wild yeasts and no added sulphur.

Enjoy this versatile, middleweight, back-to-the-future red with lamb, pork, mushrooms or bean stews.

Alcohol: 13%

From Kellys, Dublin 3; Green Man, Dublin 6W; Blackrock Cellar, Blackrock; 64 Wine, Glasthule; WineHouse, Trim, Co Meath; Mortons, Salthill, Co Galway; Bradleys, Cork; www.wineonline.ie; about €27.

@MaryDowey

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