Q&A with Viviana Navarrete of Viña Leyda

5th March, 2014 by Lucy Shaw

Viviana Navarrete is the chief winemaker at Viña Leyda, the first producer to plant Pinot Noir in the Leyda Valley in Chile. In addition to Pinot Noir, she mades cool climate Syrah, Chardonnay, Sauvignon Blanc, Riesling and Sauvignon Gris.

What factors in your view makes a Pinot Noir great?

They need to show varietal typicity: ruby colour, appealing but complex aromas of earthy and mineral notes, and a red fruit profile. Three things separate great Pinot from ordinary Pinot: elegance and a soft tannic structure, high acidity, and a low percentage of oak.

What regions of the world have the potential to produce high quality and distinctive Pinot Noir?

Regions such as Oregon in the US, Martinborough and Central Otago in New Zealand, Walker Bay in South Africa and Ahr Germany are all ones to watch.

How has your own approach to getting the best from Pinot Noir changed over the years?

We were the first estate to plant in Leyda, so it’s been a real learning curve. I’ve particularly learnt a lot about letting Pinot and the terroir speak for itself in order to express all of Leyda’s potential. I’ve spent the last few years studying Leyda’s different soils in detail, trying out different clones and planting on the slopes with different levels of exposure to the sun. In the cellar, I endeavour to interfere in the natural winemaking process as little as possible, making soft and respectfull vinifications with a lot of battonage during fermentation. We’ve been decreasing the amount of new oak in the blends and are working with just 10% new oak in order to unleash the great fruit potential of the terroir.

What sort of evolution in the style and popularity of Pinot Noir are you currently seeing in Chile?

A couple of years ago, Pinot Noir was barely known in Chile. Consumers preferred to drink darked coloured, overripe, over oaked, concentrated Cabernets and Carmeneres from the Central Valley. This trend is starting to change and consumers are getting more knowledgeable and willing to try more approachable wines made with less oak rather than heavy wines you can only manage half a glass of. Finesse and elegance are starting to rule the roost.

What is it about Pinot Noir that means it has such global appeal?

I believe the best wines in the world are Pinot Noirs. Good Pinots are delicate, elegant and persistent. They seduce instantly with their delicate red fruit aromas and high acidity, and evolve in layers showing more depth and complexity with violets and earthy notes. Pinots are easy to love and drink.

Is there a winemaker or wine whose expression of Pinot Noir inspires you?

The obvious: Lalou Bize-Leroy and Aubert de Villaine in the Romanée-Conti. I also like the work of Domaine Comte Georges de Vogüé, Domaine Ponsot, Domaine Dujac and Domaine Armand Rousseau. Outside Burgundy, I’m interested in the work that Kuzuda does in Martinborough.

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