Christian CALLEC

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Posted by Christian Callec on vrijdag, juni 18th, 2010

Going to Limarí and Elquí was a dream of mine, like being able to go to Bío-Bío and Malleco sometime in the future. These regions have been ‘rediscovered’ quite recently and the wines coming from there are really booming. No doubt for me about it, we certainly will hear, see and taste many more from Limarí, Elquí (north), Bío-Bío and Malleco (south). I was really excited to go to Limarí on this Brandabout press-trip.


The Tabalí winery in Limarí (© Tabalí)

Unfortunately, we had to cancel it. Driving 5 hours to Limarí, visiting the vineyards and tasting the wines of Tabalí, then visiting a pisco producer on the way back and return to Santiago was not really an appealing idea afterwards… It would have been a much too long work-day with relatively too little results. So, as TABALÍ and LEYDA wineries belong to the same company, we accepted the alternative plan proposed by Jane Nisbet Huseby from Brandabout, going to Leyda (which is the name of the valley and of the company established there in 1998) and tasting there the wines of both wineries, Leyda and Tabalí.



The Valle de Limarí, in the north of Chile, is a fantastic green oasis for the viticulture. Although close to the very arid northern desert of Atacama, the valley offers a fantastic climate with warm days and cool nights, thanks to the proximity (29 km!) of the Pacific Ocean. The sky is pure, bright and serene; there is no rain, hail or frost during the harvest season. The grapes have all the time to reach a perfect ripeness without losing their freshness. Add to these peculiar climatic conditions a great soil (mainly chalky with some light clay and lots of stones) and you do have there a new viticultural paradise!

The tasting:

The tasting was attended by the very talented, charismatic (and according to some wine ladies I have been talking to in those two weeks, very good looking and sexy) oenologist of Viña Tabalí, Felipe Müller. He was actually a little bit disappointed that we didn’t visit Limarí, but was fair enough to drive to Leyda to introduce ‘his’ winery and wines to us. Felipe Müller is young, passionate and absolutely determined to produce fresh and concentrated wines that never bore the consumer. His own style promises so much for the future of Limarí, Viña Tabalí and the whole Chilean vitiviniculture. But for me, the best part of Felipe Müller is that he remains ‘reachable’, human and very friendly, still curious and willing to listen to other opinions, even after his consecration as ‘Oenologist of the year 2010’ in the Guide of Chilean Wines 2010 (Planeta Vino S.A.).


Felipe MüllerOenologist of the year 2010 – (© Tabalí)

NB: as always, my tasting notes are not universal, they are only my tasting notes and reflect what I like and not. Tasting notes are always a subjective personal reflection, based on personal parameters like culture, wine and gastronomy experience and preferences. No one has to agree with me, it is just my humble opinion.

Viña Tabalí Reserva Especial Chardonnay 2008, Valle de Limarí: Beautiful nose, elegant and appealing, with fresh exotic fruit, softly yeasty and creamy minerality (barrel fermented). Fresh and vivid on the palate, fruity (citrus!), rich, juicy, generous and very well balanced, with a nice mineral saltiness in the finish. Good wine!

Viña Tabalí Reserva Chardonnay 2009, Valle de Limarí: Fresh and clean nose, less complex than the previous one. Fresh, juicy and well-balanced, not so complex but pleasant, with a touch of mineral saltiness in the finish. Well made.

Viña Tabalí Reserva Sauvignon blanc 2009, Valle de Limarí: Fresh nose with a soft touch of greens, grass, leaves and veggies, but not too much pyrazine. Fresh, clean and juicy on the palate, with a slightly mineral after-taste. Well made.

Viña Tabalí Reserva Especial Sauvignon blanc Caliza 2009, Valle de Limarí: Beautiful nose, fresh and aromatic, with a mix of citrus and white stone fruits. Fresh, vivid and zingy attack; this is a typical ‘cool climate’ sauvignon, very elegant, powerful and mineral, with a long and vibrant finish. Good wine!

Viña Tabalí Reserva Viognier 2009, Valle de Limarí: Lovely nose, mineral, fresh, with a mix of citrus, tropical and stone fruit. Fresh and fruity attack with a nice minerality. Lacks a bit of depth, but it will get much better when the vineyards are getting older. Well made.

Viña Tabalí Reserva Pinot noir 2008, Valle de Limarí: Fresh nose with plenty of red fruit. Fresh and juicy on the palate, mouth filling, lovely fruity with a nice touch of minerality in the finish. Very digestive wine. Lacks a bit of complexity, but it will get much better when the (now 10-13 years old) vineyards are getting older. Well made.

Viña Tabalí Reserva Especial Pinot noir 2008, Valle de Limarí: Beautiful nose, elegant, fruity and slightly mineral. Fresh and vivid attack, nice fruit and minerality, very good balance. Beautiful wine!

Viña Tabalí Reserva Carmenère 2008, Valle de Limarí: Strange wine… The 2007 has been considered by the team of the Guide of Chilean Wines 2010 as ‘the best Chilean carmenère’… Well, I am afraid that I will not agree on that, considering what I tasted there. Greenish, slightly vegetal in the nose, with a smell reminding me the stalk of a grape bunch. Even after a long aeration in the glass, the nose did not get much better. On the palate, the wine was fresh, very juicy, full, rich and well balanced, but in the after-taste the greenish, dryish tannins came back. I certainly hope it was not a representative bottle.

Viña Tabalí Reserva Syrah 2008, Valle de Limarí: Beautiful nose, fresh with plenty of red fruit, mulberries and a pinch of pepper. Fresh and elegant, mineral and fruity, very well balanced, juicy and digestive, with a smoky touch in the after taste. Good wine!

Viña Tabalí Reserva Especial Syrah 2008, Valle de Limarí: Fantastic color, rocking deep purple! Very aromatic, full of red and black fruit with a kiss of the oak on the background. Great mouth feeling, fresh, mineral, juicy, complex with a very good acidity and tannin backbone. Very good wine!


Viña Tabalí Reserva Especial Blend 2007, Valle de Limarí: 70% syrah, 20% cabernet sauvignon and 10% merlot. The nose is promising, fresh, elegant and complex, with good ripe fruit, a smoky minerality and fine oak touch. The attack is fresh, very syrah, ripe and mineral, followed by a mouth filling, meaty structure and a lot of juice.  The finale is a bit disappointing, too short and a little dryish. I know lots of people, especially colleagues love this wine very much, but I am not as impressed by the final result as they are. A question of personal taste, of course. This is for me too much Chilean and USA market taste. Sorry…

Viña Tabalí Icono Payen 2007, Valle de Limarí: Felipe told us that ‘Payen’ means ‘copper’ (brass), referring to the material of many archeological discoveries in the local valley. This wine is homage to the pioneer work of the old copper workers.

The nose of this icon wine is very complex, all in layers, loads of fresh, ripe fruit, hints of violets, spices, smoke, pepper and even a reminiscence of black truffle. Good acidity, very elegant. Great fruit, great (but not too much) concentration, good tannins, ripe and well integrated, great structure, mouth filling and never boring, very digestive. Lingering, velvety finish. A great and complex wine with a good aging potential. (And you have to think that I do not understand why people are making single varietal cabernet sauvignon, and mostly dislike 100% cabernet sauvignon. But I really LOVE this one!)

Viña Tabalí Reserva Late Harvest Rose Muscat 2009, Valle de Limarí: Fresh, fruity and mineral with a clean botrytis accent, honey, peaches and apricots with a hint of exotic fruit. Fresh and juicy attack, followed by a rich and creamy feeling, a great balance, not too sticky (about 6.5 g acidity and 95 g rest sugar). Very refreshing and clean finish. Good wine with a very good value for money!


After the very interesting tasting of Viña Tabalí wines, Felipe Müller left us, going back to the Limarí Valley. Our hosts for that day took it fully over. After a short introduction of the valley, the vineyards and the company, Viña Leyda chief oenologist Viviana Navarrete went on where Felipe stopped.


Viviana Navarrete in ‘her’ vineyards

Nowadays, Leyda is an official recognized appellation. But not so long ago, this whole valley was just a land of pastures and basic crops, absolutely not suitable for viticulture. Big investments were necessary to make the dream come through. The soil and the climate were perfect, but there was not enough water. A big pipeline brought the Maipo river water to the place where vineyards were planned. In May 2002, the new Denomination of Origin Leyda was recognized. The distance between the Viña Leyda vineyards and the Pacific Ocean is very small, only 14 km. The area is blessed by a cool climate with maritime influence, cool sea breezes and moistening morning mist, maximum temperatures of 24-25°C and daily differences of 15° C between day and night… Good for a long and slow growing and ripening season. Not much rain, only 250 mm a year, and a very dry summer. The exposure to the sunlight is ideal. Thanks to a careful canopy management, every single vineyard parcel will give perfectly ripe grapes. The complexity of the Leyda wines is also due to the specific soil, softly slanting hills with compact clayish subsoil and a top-layer of loamy clay and quartz gravel. The wines produced here have a singular identity, fruit and terroir driven.

Leyda-vineyards-webLeyda offers great bucolic landscapes

The tasting:

Viña Leyda Reserva Sauvignon blanc 2009, Valle de Leyda: Very nice nose, fresh, ripe, mineral and generous. This is a beautiful cool climate sauvignon blanc with a great freshness, juice and elegance, well balanced, rich and very gastronomic. Good wine.

Viña Leyda Single Vineyard Sauvignon blanc Garuma 2009, Valle de Leyda: This is the wine that I actually drunk every single day of the extra week I had to stay in the NH Ciudad de Santiago de Chile, because of a fickle Icelandic ash cloud. But at the moment I tasted it in Leyda, I had no clue this would become my forced daily house wine for a week.

The nose is like the one before, but much more mineral, ripe and complex, with aromas of green asparagus and a hint of boxwood. Very well made, fresh, juicy and mineral, with a great gastronomic value. Good wine!


Viña Leyda Single Vineyard Sauvignon gris Kadun 2009, Valle de Leyda: ‘Kadun’ seems to be synonymous of ‘grey’ in local Indian language. Very ripe nose, quite aromatic but not really complex. Lacks some freshness, compared to the sauvignon blanc, but is much more aromatic and has more body. The vineyards are still very young and therefore very promising. At the moment the wine is a little bit too short in the aftertaste, but not bad at all!

Viña Leyda Single Vineyard Riesling Neblina 2009, Valle de Leyda: Fresh and clean; juicy, well done but actually not really representative for ‘riesling’. However a nice gastronomic wine.

Viña Leyda Reserva Chardonnay 2008, Valle de Leyda: Fresh, floral, ripe, unoaked chardonnay. Very fresh, clean and mineral salty on the palate, very nice, digestive gastronomic wine. Well made.


Viña Leyda Single Vineyard Chardonnay Falaris 2008, Valle de Leyda: Expressive nose, creamy and mineral. Quite Burgundy style, round, floral and mineral with well integrated oak. Wonderful value for money. Good wine!

Viña Leyda Lot 5 Chardonnay 2009, Valle de Leyda: Very mineral nose, fresh and complex. Lot of juice on the palate, very fresh and vivid (no malolactic fermentation) and a good structure. Long and fascinating finish. Good wine.

Viña Leyda Single Vineyard Pinot noir rosé Loica 2009, Valle de Leyda: Interesting wine, fresh, fruity and spicy. Well made, but may be a little bit too ‘dry’ for most rosé consumers. I would buy it. Well made.

Viña Leyda Single Vineyard Pinot noir Las Brisas 2009, Valle de Leyda: Fresh, fruity and spicy pinot noir type; round, mouth filling and generous. Good wine!

Viña Leyda Single Vineyard Pinot noir Cahuil 2009, Valle de Leyda: Great nose, fresh, fruity, spicy and slightly oaky. Complex, clean, very juicy and mineral on the palate. Long and warm finish. Good wine!

Viña Leyda Lot 21 Pinot noir 2009, Valle de Leyda: Fantastic nose, very spicy, reminding me the French ‘garrigue’ (low bushes and wild herbs). Quite powerful for a pinot noir, complex, fruity, elegant and very mineral. Lingering finish. Very good wine!


Viña Leyda Single Vineyard Syrah Canelo 2008, Valle de Leyda: Absolutely wonderful nose, plentiful of fruit (mulberry), pepper and minerality, with soft floral accents. Very elegant wine, with a great structure, good balance and length. Mouth filling but never boring. Good wine!

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