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Tasting notes from Chile

text and photographs © 2010 Tom Cannavan

These notes accompany our in-depth feature on Chile, North to South.


At Viña Leyda I spent much more time out amongst the vines with Agricultural Director Ignacio Casali (right, click for bigger version) than I did with Winemaking Director Viviana Navarrete. It was Viña Leyda's founders, the Fernandez family, who planted the valley's first vineyards, building a pumping station to bring water eight kilometres from the Maipo River in 1997 and planting vines one year later. This terroir and what makes it so special in Chile still drives the thinking here, even though Viña Leyda was sold to the owner of Viña Tabalí in Limari, Guillermo Luksic, in 2007.

Viña Leyda's vineyards are only 12 kilometres from the coast, which is visible from the higher parts of the estate. Ignacio tells me that Syrah is harvested here in mid-May, whereas in an area like Colchagua it might be early April. Yields are also naturally smaller too. Whilst Chile makes much of its ability to plant vines on their own roots because so far the country is Phyloxerra free, Ignacio is one of many to plant only on root-stocks, because "It gives more homogenous results."

viviana    Ignacio worked in Napa growing Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, where he says his understanding of soils and clones was developed. "We need to have a lot of variation in our vineyards - not all the same orientations, same planting densities and same clones - to give variety in the wines," he says. Indeed there is a large variety of Pinot clones for example, from Burgundy, California and Oregon.

Their new vineyards were mapped minutely through sinking over 500 bore holes, to totally understand the soil composition, water retention properties, etc., before planting. Vines are trained low, on wires just 50cm off the ground instead of 100cm - "big wines come from small vines," according to winemaker Viviana Navarrete (left).

white wines

UK agent for Viña Leyda is Great Western Wine. See all stockists on wine-searcher.

Viña Leyda Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Rich, ripe, very tropical fruit with lots of papaya and lychee, with some lemon zest. Beautiful palate too, the fruit and freshness pushing through, and though it perhaps lacks a touch of weight on the mid palate, it has a delightful, fresh finish. 87/100. 6.95

Viña Leyda Single Vineyard Sauvignon Blanc Gauma 2009
From a limestone soil, with some pre-fermentation cold-soaking. A much more mineral, melon and citrus profile - more than tropical. A touch of leafiness. Intense, leafy, soft herbs and lemon, a hint of that peachy, papaya sweetness, but a big, dry acidity making it food friendly. 89/100. 9.50, Wine Soc, Oddbins, Waitrose.

Viña Leyda Single Vineyard Sauvignon Gris Kadun 2009
A careful pressing to avoid skin contact from pink skin. There's a nice weight and suggestion of apple skins and spice. On the palate quite full textured, with some crisp, crunchy, sb like bite, but more broad, though a fine, pithy, tangy acidity. 87/100. Wine Soc, Oddbins.

Viña Leyda Single Vineyard Riesling Neblina 2009
Planted in 2003, so third crop. Fine, peach skin nose, with a touch of fragrant, Mandarin skins. The palate is quite intense and has a bold citrus fruit. It is fresh and very tight, mineral, lemony freshness. 88/100. 9.50.

Viña Leyda Reserva Chardonnay 2008
Unoaked. Very ripe, almost buttery cabbage note. Citrus beneath and a touch of green herbs. The palate has plenty of sweetness and quite a nice texture, but a big apple acidity freshening the finish. 87/100. 6.95, Wine Society

Viña Leyda Single Vineyard Chardonnay Falaris Hill 2008
Fermented in French oak, 20@ new. No malolactic (in any wines). Buttery, minty nose, real mint humbug character, oatmeally, cashew quality, and white fruit beneath. The palate has some of that soft, cashew quality, more nutty apple fruit, a really tangy orange acidity. Delicious. 91/100. 9.50.

Viña Leyda Lot 5 Chardonnay 2008
From just a few rows on limestone soils, with green harvest to leave one kilogramme per vine. Oxidative winemaking, with no sulphur at fermentation. Around 30% new oak. Nose is less obviously oaky, with some funky, earthy notes and lots of nuttiness. The palate has a dry, very Burgundian complexity, with good freshness and lots of minerality. 91/100. 14.50, Wine Soc

red wines

Viña Leyda Single Vineyard Pinot Noir rosé 2009
Beautifully fragrant roses and kirsch nose. Beautiful wine, delightful strawberry and raspberry brightness, rosy red apples and terrific acidity. A cracking rose. 89/100. 9.50, Wine Society, Oddbins

Viña Leyda Single Vineyard Pinot Noir Las Brisas 2008
West-facing block with fewer hours of sun and lower temperatures. Harvested late. 10 months in French oak, 15% new. Very herbal, floral nose, with a hint of geranium, light, herby cherry fruit. The palate bursts into life with lovely, bright, keen-edged fruit with lots of cut and life, very nice acids and just a smooth suggestion of ripeness and chocolate in the finish. 91/100. 10.95, Wine Soc, Oddbins

Viña Leyda Single Vineyard Pinot Noir Cahuil 2008
North-east block, with more heat and light. Low yielding and selected twice, in vineyard and winery. Open fermented, 20% new oak, all aged 10 months in oak. Quite creamy, with cherry and more plummy fruit. A little vanilla, but also a savoury black olive note. The palate has more weight than the las Brisas, with a more plummy fruit, and a cool, quite chocolaty finish. 90/100. 11.95, Wine Society

Viña Leyda Lot 21 Pinot Noir 2008
One kilogramme per plant yield, long pre-ferment cold maceration, punching down in open top fermenters. 10 months in oak, 20% new. Dark, more earthy and brooding concentration. Quite bold fruit and a touch of something smoky and herbal, like sage leaves. The palate has more tannin than the other cuvees, with a grippy core and good acidity, and a deep, structured fruit. That hint of leafiness is still there, helping to add freshness. 91/100. 17.50, Wine Society

Viña Leyda Single Vineyard Syrah Canelo 2007
Very low yielding, encouraging lots of freshness in the vineyard with open canopy and bunches. Picked last. Meaty, extremely smoky nose, like smoked sausage. A hint of green. On the palate a dense texture and fruit quality, though there is good tannin. Lacks a little fruit for me and that smoky meatiness is slightly distracting. 87/100.. 10.95.

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