Leyda Leads the Charge for Women in Wine
Chief winemaker of Viña Leyda and one of Chile’s “Top 100 Leading Women 2013” and “Top 10 Winemakers” Viviana Navarrete recently visited Dublin and I was lucky enough to meet her for a chat. I was excited and curious to meet the woman behind such accolades. She is most humble and so very passionate, which made me even more intrigued.
Viviana has been the winemaker at Leyda for the last eight years and is excited to be so as the winery is located in the Leyda valley in Chile, a small sub-region of the San Antonio valley. Leyda valley is just 55 miles from the capital of Santiago and the Leyda vineyards are only seven kilometres from the Pacific Ocean, giving them a cool climate.
The Leyda winery is a pioneer for the region having succeeded in creating a D.O. for the valley, as well as being the first vineyard to plant Pinot Noir. There have been many successes for Leyda but a lot of that is in many ways down to Viviana’s vision, determination and passion.
Not coming from a wine family but having a true love for nature, Viviana decided to study agriculture and from there specialized in wine making. As a result of her studies, Viviana wanted to express the terroir and grape rather than make generic gulping wine. She wanted to show the purity and style such an extreme region could express. Not only is the Leyda valley a unique environment for the growing of vines but at the vineyards many of their plots have their own soil and micro climates which Viviana wishes to display in each bottle.
Her drive to preserve the freshness, fruit and minerality of their wines has led to the introduction this year of concrete eggs as the concrete can preserve the natural character of the wine as well as creating a texture similar to that of an oak barrel. Viviana’s focus is on purity, from vineyard to consumer, so she is careful that each step or action keeps the expression of each variety. This is why she has also moved to screw top (stelvin enclosure) so there is no oxygen for the wine to breath and change. She is so careful that before each wine is released it is tasted by all ten people working in the winery. She sees this as a way to make sure the wines are as perfect as possible and that everyone’s opinion matters to her, as a result she has a strong team who really respect her.
It is easy to see how Viviana has been highlighted as a great winemaker by how much care and thought she puts into her work, so I was curious to know if she ever felt intimidated. Initially, she said she did, but she focused on the wines and her team which has earned her the recognition of the world of wine.
So what does she drink when she is not sipping a cool glass of ‘La Garuma’? “Sancerre or a New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc”. Her favourite grape as you may guess is Sauvignon Blanc. Although she has focused on creating some smashing sauv blancs, her dream is to be the number one producer of Pinot Noir in Chile, one of the worlds most fickle grape varieties. She also is excited by developing the vineyard they bought in 2010 which is only four kilometers from the coast. As it offers such an extreme climate she hopes to harness it into something truly special.
Before I left I asked her what her thoughts were about Ireland and our taste in wine. “I’m impressed, they love to explore wine and that’s who we make wine for”.
I also got to taste a few of her wines so here are three for you to try.
This wine has a wonderful crispness with the creamy minerality coming through on the mid-palate. It also has a lovely texture with a herbaceous touch and a light, salty undertone.
La Garuma is an elegant Sauvignon Blanc which can be enjoyed now or, according to Viviana, keep it for up to five years.
This wine will pair really well with fish, shellfish or enjoy on its own.
On the nose this wine expresses a refinement with elements of a fresh sea breeze and citrus notes along with mineral and yellow fruit characteristics.
The palate offers a smooth, creamy body which is lively due to the crisp acidity. Add some citrus and light leafy notes with the mineral tone, a flicker of salinity and a delicate touch of oak and you have one great wine.
Lovely on its own but will pair well with a chicken salad.
This wine has such a vibrant nose with blueberries, red berries, earthy tones and with a touch of wild herb and some lovely smoky minerality this nose just keeps giving.
On the palate this wine is juicy with all the aromas from the nose rolling around the palate with pure elegance and a silky smooth body.
The Las Brias has great length and will pair wonderfully well with mushroom risotto.
Suzi is passionate about wine, beer and whiskey too, not forgetting a love of food and travel. She has been a part of this industry for a little over 10 years. She has worked on level 4 in WSET during this time and regularly hosts tastings and staff training in these sectors. She has recently started a blog on all wine, beer and spirit related beverages. You can follow her blog at suzisgrapecrush or follow Suzi on Twitter