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Cool-Climate Sauvignon Blanc from Chile
By Mary Ewing-Mulligan
Dec 21, 2022
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Viña Leyda, Leyda Valley, Sauvignon Blanc Reserva 2022 ($15) and Coastal Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc “Garuma” 2021 ($20): 
The fact that Chile has spread its viticultural wings beyond the warm Central Valley and into cool locales is no longer news but is still exciting.  Vineyards at two extremes— in cool coastal areas along the Pacific Ocean and in high-altitude sites in the Andes Mountains— are now increasingly common.  The coastal areas have enabled Chile to excel in wines such as Sauvignon Blanc and Pinot Noir—which had never been the county’s strong suit—as well as distinctive cool-climate Syrahs.

The Leyda Valley is one of Chile’s notably cool, coastal appellations.  It is a tiny area within the much larger San Antonio Valley area, and is distinctive for its proximity to the Pacific Ocean, which is less than three miles away.  The Leyda Valley boasts foggy mornings, cool Pacific breezes and bright afternoon sunshine, a combination that promotes high acidity in the grapes along with ripe fruit flavors.  Viña Leyda is the acclaimed wine producer of the zone.

Viña Leyda produces two well-priced Sauvignon Blancs ($15 and $20) available in the U.S.  They are different enough in style that one or the other is likely to charm anyone who enjoys wines from the Sauvignon Blanc grape.  My tasting partner, for example, much preferred one of the two wines and I much preferred the other.

The 2022 Viña Leyda Reserva Sauvignon Blanc is as strongly varietal as you could hope a Sauvignon Blanc to be.  Its aroma is pronounced, showing ripe citrus notes that compete for your attention — lemon, lime, grapefruit, mandarins — along with a grassy herbaceous note and piquant lemon verbena.  The wine is dry and very flavorful with crisp acidity and rich, oily texture.  This is a straight-line Sauvignon Blanc that speaks of its grape variety with clarity.  Without any oak fermentation or aging, the vivid fruit flavors sing.  The rich texture owes itself to lees aging and stirring in tank.  The wine is entirely Sauvignon Blanc.

Viña Leyda’s 2021 Coastal Vineyards “Garuma” Sauvignon Blanc is likewise 100% varietal.  Besides being one year older than the Reserva, its grapes are sourced from the finest plots the winery has; they feature granite and calcareous soils that contribute complexity and nuance to the wine.

This Sauvignon Blanc (my favorite of the two) is less overt, more restrained in its aromas and flavors; it won’t bowl you over on first whiff.  The nose is fresh and bright with a salient note of grapefruit that intertwines with lime, white pepper, lemon verbena and, surprisingly, green chili.  The wine is dry and crisp, with body on the high end of medium.  Tangy flavors show good concentration, and together create complexity and a long, fine finish.  

Winemaking for the Garuma is more complex than for the Reserva, which accounts for the wine’s more refined style.  Only 30 percent of the grapes were destemmed and crushed; these grapes experienced some skin contact in the press to intensify their aromas.  The remaining 70 percent were whole-bunch pressed.  The crushed juice was fermented in stainless steel tanks and the pressed juice in 400-liter used oak barrels.  Post fermentation, the oaked wine remained on its lees for seven months with batonnage (lees stirring) to create a creamy, full texture.  Although the use of oak is certainly a factor in the wine’s restrained style, the wine shows no oakiness of flavor because the barrels were large and not new.

True to their common origins in Leyda Valley, both wines share impressive ripeness from a sunny climate along with enduring cool-climate acidity.

2022 Viña Leyda Reserva Sauvignon Blanc, 90 Points
2021 Viña Leyda Coastal Vineyards “Garuma” Sauvignon Blanc, 90 Points       

Read more of Mary Ewing-Mulligan's Columns:  "On My Table"
More wine reviews:     Wine Reviews