Viviana Navarrete is a multi-awarded Chilean winemaker on a mission to change and inspire the world of wine. Not only is she determined to make the best cold climate wines of all of Chile, but she is also leading the first-ever collaborative wine and vineyard ownership program with Chile’s Indigenous Mapuche community.
In 2007, Navarrete became Chief Winemaker of Viña Leyda, a winery in Chile’s cool coast and the coolest coastal awarded winery in Chile. From the beginning of her wine career, she was attracted to the terroir of Leyda Valley due to its potential to craft unique, premium, and best-in-class wines. Navarrete also spearheads a special Pinot Noir project called ‘Tayu’, a unique vineyard ownership program that began in 2018. It’s a collaborative social sustainability wine project with the indigenous Mapuche community in the south of Chile’s Malleco Valley, which received a remarkable 96 points from the Descorchados Guide.
In our interview with Navarrete, we dive into everything you need to know about Chile’s Leyda Valley and more about Tayu.
A well-awarded expert in the field of winemaking, Viviana originally studied Agricultural Engineering and specialized in Winemaking at the Pontificia Universidad Católica de Chile. In 2007, Viviana became Chief Winemaker of Leyda Winery and works with the prestigious enology advisor Alberto Antonini to create wines of place, passion, and prestige.
Her winemaking philosophy reflects the high quality of the vineyards, a real sense of place and the unique conditions of the terroir bringing uniqueness to every bottle. She focuses on cool-climate grape varieties that grow well in Leyda Valley. This gives rise to expressive and elegant wines that are fresh, fruit-forward, and also offer complexity. Among other pursuits, Navarrete is striving for excellence in micro terroir Pinot Noir, as well as experimenting with new cool-climate grape varieties not yet grown in Chile. Since her start in 2007 at Viña Leyda Viviana has made an incredible name for herself garnering international acclaim and praise.
- 2007 – Named Chief Winemaker at Viña Leyda with the aim to produce the best cool climate wines in Chile.
- 2013 – Named among “Chile’s Top Ten Winemakers,” by Peter Richards (MW).
- 2014 – Named ‘Top Winemaker’ in an article for The Drinks Business Magazine by British wine writer Amanda Barnes.
- 2015 – “Young Innovative Winemaker” Award, by “Wiken” “Del Campo” Magazine.
- 2017 – Named “One of Chile’s Best Pinot Noir Makers”, by Kim Marcus, Wine Spectator
- 2018 – Chosen as one of the ‘Top Trailblazing Women Leading the Wine Industry,” by Wine Enthusiast.
- 2020 – Acknowledged as “Winemaker of the Year,” by Tim Atkin
- 2020 – Selected among “The World’s 13 Best Female Winemakers & The Only Female Winemaker from South America,” by Wine Enthusiast.
- 2022 – “Best Winemaker of the Year” by The Descorchados Guide.
Ancient soils of Chile
At over 120 million years old, the Chilean Coastal Range is home to the country’s oldest soils. Granitic in composition, they result in vibrant wines with high minerality. Mother rock of igneous crystalline rock formed far below the Earth’s surface under extreme conditions of heat and pressure is the foundation for great wines. As the rock cooled and crystallized over time, different compounds such as quartz and mica were created and driven upwards to the surface. Over time some of these rocks eroded, forming the sandy granitic soils where most of our vines are planted today.
“This geographical location means that our soils come from the Coastal Mountain Range and are more than 120 million years old, being the oldest in Chile. Our soils are formed on different terraces that have formed over time and they include significant areas with maritime deposits that include some veins of limestone. These soils are excellent for producing vibrant Sauvignon Blanc wines with long, firm palates,” explains Navarrete.
With a unique topography, Leyda Valley has rolling slopes resulting in varied vineyard orientation and this leads to diversified canopy microclimates and different fruit profiles. Producing wines of place and prestige, Navarrete can be often found walking through her vineyards and getting to know the terroir and soil intimately. From her vineyards you can see and smell the ocean, as well as observe the unique soils where vines are planted.
“At Leyda in particular, we have the perfect combination of cool climate and ancient soils, making the Leyda Valley one of the best places for producing Sauvignon Blanc,“ shares Navarrete.
Cool coastal influence of Viña Leyda
Viña Leyda was the first winery to plant vines in the valley of the same name. Viviana spearheads the wines made at Vina Leyda who are pioneers in the region of the D.O.. Located on the 33rd parallel South, on the west side of the coastal mountain range and only 4 km from the Pacific Ocean, Leyda is the perfect place to make coastal award-winning wines.
The Pacific cool coastal climate influences the vineyards with pronounced marine characteristics and offers the lowest and coldest temperatures of all of Chile’s wine regions (13 ºC on average). This allows the grapes to ripen slowly, enhancing their flavour and aromas and giving grapes natural acidity. This proximity to the ocean also adds a saline character to the wines on the bouquet and on the palate.
“When we talk about Leyda, first we are talking about a privileged origin; we are situated to the west of the Coastal Mountain Range, just 4 kilometres from the Pacific Ocean. The valley is only four kilometres from the Pacific Ocean, so morning fog, strong winds and maritime influences are abundant. This terroir results in slow ripening, naturally low yields, small clusters of small berries, high acidity and highly concentrated flavours and aromas, “ says Navarrete.
With the valley so close to the Pacific Ocean, vines are exposed to morning fog, strong winds, and maritime influences. This unique and premium terroir offers grapes the opportunity to slowly ripen to perfection, lower yields, smaller berry clusters, and naturally high acidity balanced with a higher concentration of flavours and aromas.
Currently, Navarrete’s mission is to make the best cool-climate wines in all of Chile. Showcasing the best of the region and the original wine’s character, and identity while unleashing the full potential of the Leyda Valley.
Viña Leyda produces 3 different tiers of Sauvignon Blanc spearheaded by Navarrete. All are grown in the cool coastal climate and she works with 6 different Sauvignon Blanc clones everything is hand-harvested, uniquely separated in batches and looked at as completely separate to showcase even the minutiae of details.
“In each of them, we try to show the varietal characteristics but mainly express the cool coastal climate. We are crazy about clones so we separate the grapes from each of them during the harvest, but I also divide the batches from the different blocks of vines, depending on the slopes, orientation and of course the soil composition. Therefore, there is a lot of detailed work in the vineyard, separating everything into small units,” says Navarrete.
When it comes to winemaking Navarrete keeps all of her batches separate for the most unique aromatic expressions from the terroir. Each vintage Navarrete is super detailed and hyper-involved in every part of the process so there is no detail missed in any part of the process. Her goal is to create the most premium cool coastal Sauvignon Blanc in Chile (and the world!) and also craft wines that can stand the test of time.
“Some of our wines undergo cluster selection, others are sent for gentle whole-cluster pressing, and some are gently crushed and cold-macerated. The style of vinification for all of them is reductive in order to keep and enhance the grapes’ pronounced aromatic profile. We manage the fermentation at a very low temperature to gain complexity and a creamy texture on the palate. We use stainless steel tanks, concrete tanks, untoasted casks and 400-litre French oak barrels for vinification. Our work today with this variety is to craft Sauvignon Blanc with not only the beauty of aromatic expression but also very focused on developing creamy-textured whites with vibrant sensation and structure, which is not easy to achieve with this variety. Also, we are focusing on making whites with the potential for long aging in the bottle,” Navarrete says.
Recently, the success of the Leyda Garuma Sauvignon Blanc has achieved a regular listing at the LCBO. Constant love from consumers and praise from wine critics has put Navarret’s Sauvignon Blanc and her talents on the world stage.
Tayu Pinot Noir
Hailed as one of the “Best Pinot Noir” and “Best Malleco” by the Descorchados Guide, Tayu 1865 Pinot Noir has garnered an impressive 96 points. Grapes for this wine are grown in the Malleco Valley – a cool climate valley in southern Chile located 600 km to the south of Santiago in the Araucanía Region. With vineyards located at the 38th parallel, it is an area where few wine grapes are grown. Vineyards for this wine are planted in Purén, only 38 km from the Pacific Ocean, so it is subject to a maritime influence.
But that isn’t the only thing about this wine that is impressive. Navarrete and the team at Viña San Pedro work alongside the local Mapuche indigenous Community to harness their intimate knowledge of the soils and craft a Pinot Noir that truly expresses origin. A collaborative wine project with the indigenous community in Chile, this social sustainability project began in 2015. Wanting to integrate a strong, important and never-before-done, unprecedented model of collaborative work, Viña San Pedro worked with two families from a Mapuche community in the Malleco Valley, in the Araucania Region, to produce Pinot Noir grapes.
As of 2023, there are now 11 families – each with 2.5 hectares per family for a total of 27.5 hectares who each are learning to farm their own Pinot Noir grapes. Funds from the Chilean government and VSP are lent to the Mapuche families to tend and grow their own vineyards. Navarrete spends many hours with the families and there are many indigenous rituals that are integrated into the farming of the land. “These families are intimately connected to the land,” she says. “This connection is shown through the final wine, you can taste the difference real connection makes.”
Tayu, which means “Ours” in Mapudungun, is the proud result of presenting a new understanding of the variety, based on a traditional approach to nature, which values family and respect above all. Created in partnership by Indigenous Chilean families in the community of Buchahueico, the Mapuche community, which means “people of the land,” has a deep connection to the earth that goes beyond what can be understood ecologically. The label also is a symbol of the partnership, featuring an image that showcases an elder Mapuche woman and a vineyard on one side of her face.
Tayu is a wine that is not only award-winning juice but speaks to the fact that social responsibility projects can make a massive difference when done from a place of the heart putting nature and the people of the land first. It is an example to the world of how a winery can make a wine that makes a difference, can impress international critics and can also empower people by putting social sustainability first. This model is an example that many should look to around the world.
Find Tayu Pinot Noir at LCBO for $23.95