For wine journalist and Planetavino editor Mariana Martinez, certain exquisite experiences in life are priceless.
Like savoring shellfish with Sauvignon Blanc by the seashore in her adopted country, Chile.
“There is not a culinary pleasure bigger than that. Just go to a fish market at the beach, buy your fresh seafood, take it home, cook it by yourself, prepare it as you please, and uncork Chilean wine and enjoy … And if you are in front of the beach, it’s just fantastic.”
Argentinean-born Martinez was raised in Uruguay, earned a Communications degree in Caracas, Venezuela, and worked as a model in Europe for one year, before settling in Chile, where she studied for a wine diploma at Santiago’s Andrés Bello University and then became a professional Sommelier.
Taking a simple wine class to guide tours in the Maule Valley inspired Martinez to learn about wine – a harmonious progression, given her prior interest in agronomy, photography and nature. A subsequent job as an assistant for a Chilean sommelier led to a position as webmaster for Planetavino, paving the way for a successful career communicating her passion for wine.
“It was this movement of life that you cannot see,” she reflects, “but it’s all very well planned … You don’t know what it means in the moment, but then … you see backwards and you see why things happened.”
In Martinez’s case, she sees clearly now that it was this movement of life that brought her to a natural paradise in Chile, where she happily enjoys every opportunity to immerse herself in beautiful landscapes, from the country’s northern deserts to southern glacial lakes:
“I love the sea, all the seacoast … I just love the nature. I love the north, San Pedro de Atacama. I love the south, the lakes, it’s so beautiful. La Cordillera, I love La Cordillera, it’s just amazing. All the dry farming – “secano” – from the south, everywhere you see, it’s just so unique.”
Continues Martinez, “I prefer to take my own pictures and I love to travel, so those were the things I liked to do, and life gave me a way to have all of them in my work. I wanted to work in the nature, I love plants, and that’s what I do now. I love to visit the vineyards, talk with the people, take pictures, learn about what they are doing.”
In addition to perpetually learning on the job, Martinez adores working as a wine educator and familiarizing her students with the intricacies of wine. As Chief of Education for Chilean wine superstore Mundo del Vino, she hosts classes for company employees and consumers, along with a variety of tastings and events.
Due to her Argentinean heritage, Martinez occasionally finds herself in the midst of the friendly rivalry between two prominent South American wine industries. Each year she organizes a blind tasting of Chilean and Argentinean wines with a friend from Argentina, selecting the Chilean wines for the tastings and always cheering for Chile.
“I just want Chile to win,” she enthuses. “I’ve been here in the industry for twelve years now, so I really want Chile to succeed!”
And Chile is well on the way to success, both in the industry and in the vineyards, according to Martinez.
As a sommelier, she is especially pleased about the increasing popularity of the country’s sparkling wines as an aperitif over the previously-favored sugar- and alcohol-laden pisco sour. She also hopes to see more restaurants offering by-the-glass wine pairing with each course at meals.
Furthermore, Martinez compares the evolution of Chilean winemaking to Europe’s longstanding viticulture, pointing out that the recent generations of Chile’s vintners were born and raised among the family vines, giving them a distinct passion for winemaking, innovation and quality that is evident in the bottle.
“I think that’s great because that’s what you see in Europe – 10 generations, 5 generations ahead,” she notes. “For [European winemakers] there is no other way to live. So they really have to protect the land. It’s something that they do for the next generation.
“When they plant, they plant for the next generation, not for them,” Martinez continues. “That’s something that we have to learn [in Chile], and I think that’s very interesting, that it’s happening, because it’s moving and it’s making people think different, take more care, and be more passionate at the same time.”
As an ardent nature-lover, Martinez commends the Chilean wine industry’s initiatives towards responsible agriculture and sustainability.
“The most delicate resource that Chile has is the nature,” she says.
And since nature produces Chile’s inimitable terroirs, the land is an especially precious resource for the country’s wineries.
“The nature gives the uniqueness to the wines,” urges Martinez. “When you really want wines to express place, you need time, you need passion … we have done a lot; we have progressed a lot in 30 years …
“Because we have done so much, [I know] we are going to do much more. We are just learning. We are in a progress, a work in progress, that’s why it’s so exciting – it’s moving, it’s alive, very alive, and you can say that it’s a little baby, it’s doing great things, but once it will [be an adult] and balanced, be prepared, because it’s going to be great. I think it’s fantastic!”
Like Martinez’s meaningful life path – which pulled her to a central position from which to observe and experience Chile’s growth in this exciting period of transition – the Chilean wine industry is building a history and a worldwide legacy that will one day be recorded, recognized and understood with a backward gaze.
Mariana Martinez is participating in this legacy by telling Chile’s story as it happens, through her ongoing work as a wine journalist with a singular voice and zealous appetite for her job.
In addition to communicating through Planetavino and other media outlets and tasting venues, Martinez plans to return to radio broadcasting next year with a new show about Chilean wine. She also hopes to produce a second edition of her popular wine dictionary, “El Vino de la A a la Z.”
Keep track of Martinez’s activities and work by following her on Twitter – @MyMentrecopas.