A collaboration between two friends from different continents, Longaví Winery explores the undiscovered terroir of the newly established Leyda Valley and the renowned vineyards of Chile’s Maule Valley.
A chance meeting some years ago at the acclaimed London Wine Fair produced a collaboration of two vintners that were continents apart, South America and Africa to be exact. The principals, Chilean Julio Bouchon and South African David Nieuwoudt, became close friends and were intrigued by the potential of one of Chile’s newest growing regions, the Leyda Valley and its newly discovered spectacular-producing varietal, Sauvignon Blanc. A few beers after the fair produced a promising friendship.
According to Julio Bouchon, “We came together because the potential of Chile has no boundaries. Because this is our own project, there are no limits, no restrictions. David is definitely one of the finest winemakers I have ever met in my life and he has great respect for terroir and his wines have great expression in their makeup.”
Bouchon’s family has been in the wine business for more than 130 years and is considered one of Chile’s foundation wine families. They own the Mingre Estate in the Maule Valley where the family’s winemaking facilities and vineyards are located today. Julio Bouchon (actually Julio, Jr.) is the fourth generation of his family to continue the winemaking tradition in the area that is cut through by the Maule River.
Under the banner of Bouchon Family Wines, numerous national and international awards have been garnered by the Bouchon Family. Gold Medals in the United Kingdom (WSC and Decanter) and Belgium (Concours Mondial de Bruxelles) have added to the reputation of Julio Bouchon, who is a journalist by trade and a winemaker by accord.
Julio Bouchon’s partner in the new venture is David Nieuwoudt, a talented winemaker. Nieuwoudt owns his own winery, Cederberg Private Cellar, that is considered one of South Africa’s best wineries. Nieuwoudt also has received numerous international awards for his wines that are produced at extremely high altitudes in South Africa’s Western Cape region. He is a champion of sustainable farming and a celebrated practitioner of terroir-oriented wines.
Longaví Winery is the product of these two wine icons. Longaví literally means ‘snake’s head,’ and is derived from a stratovolcano called Nevado de Longaví in the nearby Maule Region. At the foot of the Andes Mountains, this statuesque crater provides the perfect background for wine greatness.
The Longaví Winery label features a vine wreath, denoting the Ourobos, an ancient African symbol that represents nature’s eternal cycle of renewal. A sacred condor soaring high over the Andes signifies a messenger to the Gods, informing them of two men searching for perfection in their wines.
David Nieuwoudt - Winemaker
David Nieuwoudt is South African by birth and a graduate of the esteemed Elsenburg Agricultural College of that country that has produced a high number of successful South African winemakers. He is a fifth-generation winemaker whose family began farming the Dwarsriver Farm as early as 1893. David’s grandfather, Dom Pollie Nieuwoudt, planted the first wine grape vineyards in 1973 that are now considered among South Africa’s top quality producing vineyards.
David Nieuwoudt is also the owner/winemaker (since 1997) for Cederberg Winery in the Western Cape Growing Region and has consistently scored high marks on the international wine scene. He is a champion of terroir-based wines that reflect the soils of a particular area. He was named South Africa’s Top Winemaker for the year in 2013 and is considered one of the country’s leading wine consultants. It was his interest in exploring the potential of Sauvignon Blanc in Chile’s Leyda Valley that brought about the Longavi Winery collaboration with the Bouchon Family.
Chile's Wine History
Chile’s elevation into the upper strata of international wine producing countries has been well documented and is considered one of the more interesting sagas of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.
The country’s emergence from a low-level wine producer to that of a top-flight wine entity has been fueled by advantageous weather conditions that exist throughout the elongated (north to south) Pacific-influenced coastal ranges that dominate the entire country.
Even though the country traces its origins back to the 17th century, this particular wine renaissance is most certainly a more modern one. Termed a new wave movement of cash in ow and modern winemaking techniques, current Chilean wineries have made the most of their incredible good luck and have begun producing wines of international statue.
Most laurels have come in their red varietals, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec and Carménère that have all garnered international acclaim. To be sure, many of these wines are well deserving of their hard-earned places on top restaurant wine lists and on the shelves of important wine merchants around the globe.
But, it is entirely possible their greatest accomplishment in the wine world is still ahead. And, to add fact to the assumption, Chile’s greatest potential might just lie in the world of the sometimes-ignoble Sauvignon Blanc. Yes, the Sauvignon Blanc. You read correctly.
The quality level of Chile’s Sauvignon Blancs have always been there, it was the grape itself (or its reputation) that held it back. Born in France’s Loire Valley, the Sauvignon Blanc has always been a sort of stepchild of wine producers worldwide. It is pleasant to the taste, always fresh and its excellent lemon-oriented fruit compliments many foods to the proverbial ‘t.’ It is an easy grape to grow and easy to produce. It does not require intensive labor (such as the Pinot Noir and others) and grows in practically every type of climate.
When New Zealand figured out that Sauvignon Blanc was the engine to fuel its wine industry, a number of Chilean growers took note of that country’s success. They began to search for growth areas for the varietal and settled on the cool-climate growing area of the Leyda Valley.
The resultant plantings and the initial releases of a number of wineries were almost universally complimentary - at an extremely high-quality level. The wines were compared to other top-flight Sauvignon Blancs and scored at extremely high levels. They scored well against the New Zealand Sauvignon Blancs that are now universally accepted as the best examples of the varietal that are produced around the world.
Will this mini-phenomenon continue throughout the country?
Probably so. Remember the Sauvignon Blanc varietal grows in many different climates and soils, all of which are found throughout Chile’s numerous wine regions. It would be wise for the country to spend some of its promotional efforts on the Sauvignon Blanc as opposed to the Cabernet Sauvignon (the only varietal the country has every promoted).
Some experts feel that Chile’s Sauvignon Blancs actually taste better than those from New Zealand. These experts point to a lack of herbaceousness in the South American varietal and that fact makes the finished wine even more food-friendly.
Best of all, many of these great Chilean Sauvignon Blancs are still priced as user-friendly. That aspect alone is a boon to the varietal’s continued success and there is no good reason to see prices increase in the foreseeable future.
While many wines offer adventuresome backgrounds and colorful stories, Chile’s ever-expanding portfolio offers a wine choice that will satisfy practically every possible taste.
It is a pleasure to offer these excellent examples from a top Chilean wine producer, Longavi Winery, to our International Wine Club members. We know you will find these wines fresh, crisp and exciting. Enjoy!
Maule Valley Region
The Maule Valley is one of Chile’s largest wine producing areas and home to some of the oldest vineyards to be found in the country. The Maule Valley is also home to a winemaking renaissance through improved vinification and viticultural methods. This has produced grapes with lower yields and healthier soils - prerequisites for extraordinary grapes. The largest number of varietals grown in the Maule Valley are red (Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Carménère) that have bolstered Chile’s long- standing reputation as a top producer of big, bold red varietals.
The Maule Valley is part of Chile’s Central Valley and is located some 150 miles south of Santiago, the country’s capital. At the Central Valley’s southern end is one of the coolest wine producing areas in Chile. The Maule River ( owing east to west) provides alluvial soil including granite, loam, gravel and red clay. Much of the area contains organically-grown vines that have been certified organic for several decades.
Leyda Valley Region
The Leyda Valley is a sub-region of the San Antonio Valley, located just 55 miles west of Santiago and closely proximate to Chile’s enormous Pacific coastline. The cooling Humbolt Current is the effector for the region that is only eight miles west of the coast. The Leyda Valley generally produces excellent Pinot Noir and Chardonnay fruit, considered among the finest grown in Chile. The Leyda Valley is a relative newcomer as a growing region, being farmed for grapes for the first time in the late 1990’s. A pipeline from the Maipo River (to the south) has provided a much-needed water source to the valley that has attracted much interest by its near-perfect terroir. While Burgundian varietals are dominant, some remarkable Sauvignon Blancs (see Winery Spotlight for details) and Syrahs have also been produced.
Wine Regions of Chile
Chile’s unique combination of geography and climate make it ideal for winegrowing. From the Atacama Desert to the north (the driest on Earth!), the Andes Mountains to the east, the Patagonian ice fields to the south, and the Pacific Ocean to the west, Chile is a veritable agricultural island where the geographic barriers help maintain healthy conditions and protect vines against pests and disease. With such diverse geography, the climate has terrific variation, bringing warm, dry summers and cold, rainy winters that vines thrive on. While the more established wine regions lie in the center of the country, growers continue to experiment with new landscapes, pushing further north and south. More than 600 miles separate the developing regions of Elqui Valley in the north and Malleco Valley in the south!
Chile: Fun Facts!
• Chile is the world’s 5th largest exporter and 9th largest producer of wine. The Spanish Conquistadores brought the first vines to the country in 1554 and today there are over 300 wineries producing some of the world’s finest wines.
• At 7,500 feet, Chile’s Atacama Desert is the driest place on Earth with a landscape of surreal beauty. Some parts of the region have never received a drop of rain.
• Chile’s Andes Mountains, which run the entire length of the country, have some of the world’s largest and still active volcanoes. There are over 1,300 volcanoes. Three of the most watched and historically active are Cerro Azul, Cerro Hudson, and Villarrica.
• Chile is one of the longest countries in the world with a coastline of 2,647 miles long. It is also one of the narrowest at only 93 miles wide.
• Chile is affectionately known as ‘pais de poetras’ (country of poets). It has procured two Nobel Prize winners in Literature: Gabriela Mistral and Pablo Neruda.
• Easter Island, famous for its Moai statues, is one of the most remote communities in the world. On the island, more than 7km of subterranean lava tunnels have been mapped out, which is one of the most extensive cave systems on Earth.
• Valparaiso is one of the most prosperous cities in Chile and its main attractions are its historical central area, declared a Unesco World Heritage Site in 2003. It is the chief port of Chile and the end of the trans- Andean railroad. Also an important industrial center, it manufactures textiles, shoes and leather goods, paint and chemicals.
• Pomaire is a small, dusty village west of Santiago. The popular destination offers shops that are over owing with ceramic pottery in the form of vases, plates, pots, and almost anything you can imagine.