Q&A: Viviana Navarrete of Viña Leyda

We caught up with the chief winemaker at Viña Leyda to find out about her ambitious new wine project, the challenges of the 2020 vintage, and her quest to make textured wines.

What are you working on at the moment?

There are no new wines for now as we are busy producing a portfolio of 21 different wines. What we are doing is deepening our knowledge of the terroir. This means splitting the lots into small polygons, each of which has unique soil compositions and gives something special to our wines.

We are working hard on palate textures for all of our wines. Therefore, we put effort into crafting wines with more vibrancy, tension and grip, almost electric, but while always maintaining a nice texture. I’m a bit obsessed about this, especially for Pinot Noir, which is not easy to achieve.

Are you confident about the quality and quantity of the 2020 vintage?

The 2020 harvest was very challenging. Firstly, the season was warmer than usual, with higher temperatures spells in December during fruit setting, and in January. For this reason, we began harvesting on 12 February, almost 15 days earlier than a normal year. The season made us very astute, responsive, smart, and with our senses fully attuned.

We tasted the berries very frequently in order to harvest the grapes at the optimum moment. What we saw this season, especially with the Sauvignon Blanc, was that phenological and physiological ripeness occurred at different rates, so we had to be very careful to harvest at the perfect time. I think 2020 gave us great quality in our Pinot Noir. We obtained low alcohol levels, red fruit profiles, and nice expressions, with plenty of cherries, as well as a spiciness and vibrancy on the palate.

What changes are you making to further improve the quality of your wines?

Following a change in winemaking philosophy five years ago, we are looking to harvest earlier and achieve acidic red fruit profiles for our Pinot Noir and Syrah. We are picking crunchy grapes, without dehydration, and looking for lower alcohol levels and a fresher wine style. We are working with whole bunches to provide more structure to the wines, using natural yeasts and decreasing the amount of barrels for ageing, replacing them with concrete tanks and untoasted casks.

With these changes we aim to craft wines which speak of and demonstrate their origin: cool climate with a strong maritime influence. Wines that are more honest and pure. And in our Sauvignon Blanc, which has always been beautiful, we are working more on texture, going not only for crunchy and fresh Sauvignon Blanc, but making it creamier and broader. So for this variety, we now ferment both in stainless steel tanks and in concrete and 400-litre barrels which, together with battonage, which is producing very interesting results.

What do you like to drink at the end of a long day in the winery?

After a hard day, I’m always happy to drink a glass of Sauvignon Blanc, which is my favourite grape variety. And I think Chilean cool coastal terroirs from north to south are producing great examples of the grape to enjoy. Just take a look at Limari, Aconcagua Costa, Casablanca, San Antonio, Leyda, Colchagua Costa, Malleco, all of which deliver great quality of expression in this grape variety.

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