SAN ANTONIO: AMAYNA, THE MAGIC STORM
The first post-competition visit brought us, my two colleagues, fellow-judges and friends Romain Batya (Luxemburg), Roberto Gatti (Italy) and I, to the Leyda Valley in San Antonio. The Garcés Silva Winery (Amayna) was since a few years on my shortlist, and I was really happy to visit it at least. I discovered the Amayna wines some years ago in the Netherlands, during a ProChile winery. I was really astonished about the purity and freshness of their unoaked sauvignon blanc. It was for me the very first encounter with a Leyda Valley/San Antonio sauvignon blanc. More followed, including the fantastic Casa Marin Cipreses, Santa Ema Amplus, Matetic EQ Coastal, Viña Leyda Single Vineyard Garuma and O.Fournier Centauri… Despite the increased competition, I still really enjoy Amayna unoaked sauvignon blanc, every time again!
The Garcés Silva family is a well-known Chilean family, always linked directly and sidelong with the wine industry. They belong to the tiny group of pioneers responsible for the success of the Leyda Valley/San Antonio coastal wines. The Amayna winery is situated very close to the Pacific Ocean coastline, I guess between 15 and 20 kilometres. Thanks to the mild influence of the Ocean, this valley is a little paradise for cool climate viticulture. The vineyards on the gently waving slopes are blessed with a perfect microclimate, with plenty of sun, a good humidity when needed, a friendly sea breeze to sweep away any excess of humidity and regulates the temperature when it is getting too hot… That, combined with a poor soil of pre-Andean clay, loam and some granite, result in a long and soft maturation period, giving perfectly ripe and highly concentrated and aromatic grapes. The Amayna winery is totally integrated in the surrounding landscape. The gently waving lines, the use of natural materials and gravity process, the natural temperature control inside, the high-tech equipment, the impressive aging room, and all here is meant to preserve as much as possible the natural purity of the grapes.
5 wines, 3 whites and 2 reds, the whole Amayna top-range, were awaiting us in the fascinating, cool tasting room with a view on the aging cellar. The use of coloured light accents seem to give an extra dimension to the place, blending warm and cold, like the blessing climate of the Valley.
The wine cellars with the tasting room on the back
Sauvignon blanc (regular) 2009: pure, fresh, aromatic, elegant, like a gentle Ocean breeze over green grass fields, spring flowers, citrus blossoms… on the palate, clean and natural freshness, very juicy, quite complex and elegant, with a nice feeling of salty minerality on the back. Good wine!
Chardonnay 2008: fresh, elegant, slightly creamy (fermented in new French oak), a hint of dry roasted fresh almonds, some fresh tropical fruit accents and elegant oak tones. A classical chardonnay that manages to bring the warm sun and the cool Ocean breeze in your glass, with a unique saltiness in the finale. Good wine!
Sauvignon blanc (barrel fermented) 2007: the first time I tasted this wine was not such a success. It was just released and the difference with the ‘regular’ sauvignon blanc (in freshness but also in price) was quite disappointing. I didn’t ‘dislike’ it, it was a good wine, but I sincerely found the use of oak slightly exaggerated. Now, more than one year later, I was absolutely impressed! The oak was perfectly integrated, the wine was fresh and juicy, its fruit (both citrus and tropical) was much more expressive, and the minerality was back, … One year of bottle aging made a huge difference! A complex wine, very elegant and classic, reminding me some top (Graves) Pessac-Léognan wines in outstanding years, but with a much more ‘maritime’ character. Very good wine!
Pinot noir 2008: ripe and fresh fruit on the nose, a hint of oak and vanilla on the back. Surprisingly round, soft, velvety with ripe tannins, very clean and pure, with a long and elegant finish. Absolutely delicious and highly gastronomic! Good wine!
Syrah 2008: this was the first time I had the chance to taste this syrah. I do believe in a great future for cool climate syrah wines in Chile, the alcohol excess should be tempered by great freshness and minerality. This wine has both! The nose reminds me of Hermitage and Crozes-Hermitage wines from granitic soil, quite austere in their youth, earthy and toasty. After some aeration, the aromas evolve into sun baked fruits, mostly blackberries, sustained by a pinch of pepper, spices and a chocolate undertone. The balance is great, plenty of fruit, good tannins, great freshness, minerality, good concentration. This is definitely not an easy going wine, this is a wine that needs time to show up. No charming sweetish syrah, but a serious wine with a unique character, a blend of sun, granite and cool breeze… Give it the time and you will have a great gastronomic wine! And if you don’t want to wait so long, give it at least 1 hour aeration in a decanter while you prepare the lamb for the asado! Good wine!
Amayna’s ‘golden wines’
That was a great tasting and a fantastic welcome. Warmest thanks to our hosts at Amayna! For more information, please visit their WEBSITE!
Epilogue: unfortunately, things went wrong after this visit. We were quite late. Our driver got instructions for the next appointment but seemed not really to worry about a ‘little’ delay. At least, we did have an appointment. Well, no one told us that the appointment was planned at 12:00, and we arrived about 2 hours too late at the next winery in Leyda/San Antonio. We were supposed to lunch there. The Casa Marín winery was closed when we arrived, there was no answer to our bell ringing at the gate of the private house at the other side of the road. I was really deeply disappointed. I did not realise immediately at that time that we were so late and did not know that the appointment was planned so early. A missed chance, but I do understand afterwards that the people at the winery could have been pretty upset not to see us appearing on time. Even with the well-known Chilean spirit of “¡No te preocupes!” (Don’t worry…) 2 hours delay is much too much and unforgivable. My most sincere apologies to Maria Luz and Jamie!
Anyway, the young Dutch lady working there, Jamie, told me during my earlier visit that this village has the best ‘parillada’ restaurant of the whole country. We had our late lunch at the Parilladas Lo Abarca… Wow, indeed, the mixed parilladas, chuletas, costillar, lomo, filete… all was really tasty and juicy, and that for a more than friendly price! An absolutely warmly recommended place for a lunch, unless you are a vegetarian… The service is quick and alert, the only ‘lesser’ point is that the wine offer could be a little bit better. There is plenty of choice, but mostly ‘national’ labels which are not always the best choices for foreigners from abroad. With the three of us drinking (the driver did not) we didn’t finish the one bottle of red wine. Need I say more?