Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Amayna Winery.

A few days ago I received an email from Hugo Desenzani of Amayna Winery inviting me to have a lunch with a few others at the winery. At this point I was very unfamiliar with Leyda Valley and jumped at the chance to experience it for myself. So after a long misguided adventure from Concón without a GPS, I arrived ready to take in Leyda.

After a rather intense tasting session with Hugo and the winemaker Francisco Sanhueza, we walked a little through the vines to the vineyard house for a lunch of local traditional foods: machas a la parmesana, congrio (aka conger eel) and potatoes, avocados, corn, and salad. All paired nicely with Amayna’s wines. A great experience all in all, but especially so due to the vast amount of information I was able to glean regarding the appellation Leyda Valley and the Amayna Winery itself.

Amayna’s vines were planted from 1999 onward. José Antonio Garcés Silva founded the winery when only a few were interested in the area. He was attempting to create a different styke than the typical new world Chilean whites pouring into the export markets at the time. He detected the area’s potential to vinify minerally wines with ripe aromas of tropical fruits, flowers, and stone fruits; this opportunity to have fantastic aromatics with high acidity offered him exactly what he sought. His focus on whites eventually broadened to include Pinot Noir and Syrah as well, with the Syrah being the most recent newcomer.

Amayna produces five different wines totaling 15,000 cases. Though they own 170 hectares, only 30-35 hectares are usually selected to produce wines. The rest of the grapes are sold off to other producers. This allows Amayna to produce with the best grapes available on the property each vintage. Bunch selection one day prior to the harvest is followed by berry selection during the harvest to include only the fruit in the most optimal condition. This great care pays off with complex, interesting wines very expressive of the unique Leyda terroir.

Here are the wines we tried:

2009 Amayna Sauvignon Blanc

Light straw in color. Tropical fruits and stone fruits virtually explode out of the glass, with the typical grassiness of a Sauvignon Blanc a little underplayed. According to the winemaker, the pyrazine (what gives Sauvignon its characteristic aroma) levels are reduced naturally by harvesting a little later than usual. A full mouthfeel is highlighted by a slight saltiness detectable under the acidity and long, lemony finish.

Some technical notes: This wine undergoes a reductive vinification for 10-15 days, followed by an oxidative treatment via unprotected racking to open up the wine a little. This is to achieve a goal of balance between oxidative and reductive flavors and aromas. Inoculation occurs with a yeast that is selected for alcohol tolerance; sometimes a blend of different yeast strains is used for flavor profiles and aromatics. The grapes are harvested in April and March.

2008 Amayna Chardonnay

This Chardonnay was rated the best of the new world by Decanter Magazine, and consistently receives 90+ points from Wine Spectator. Interesting minerality can be detected on the nose, as well as a slightly caramel note. No malolactic fermentation is used, but oak aging and battonage is. The resultant smooth, toasty, creamy taste with a smattering of toffee is delicious. A blend of 25% new, 40% one-year, and 30% two-year French oak adds the complex toast without overpowering. Only Taransaud is used for its sweetness and elegance.

2007 Amayna Barrel-Fermented Sauvignon Blanc

Only 500 cases of this wine are produced each vintage. The grapes used are the same French clone 242 as are used for the regular Sauvignon Blanc. Aged an additional 1 year in 60% new, 40% old French oak, this wine exhibits little fruitiness, being primarily dominated by buttery and toasty aromas and flavors. Its rich yellow-gold color and depth of flavor make it a very interesting wine indeed.

2008 Amayna Pinot Noir

A mixture of different clones with slightly different ripening times are used in this wine to add complexity. A light herbal scent sets the stage for aromas of black pepper and ripe red cherries. In the mouth, this wine is rich and spicy with, again, the characteristic minerally touch. Cold maceration is employed here with very little pigeage resulting in a red garnet color.

2008 Amayna Syrah

First, a note: there is none of this wine left. And the 2009 is all but sold out as well, even though it is not yet in the bottle. That being said, if you see a bottle in your local shop, grab it and give it a try...
Syrah vines were planted at the estate in 2002 and 2003 as a project to expand. The 3rd vintage was the first to be bottled. After 2005, yield adjustment was done by pruning down to 6-8 bunches per vine to perfect the grapes.

Bracing tannins show that this wine is not yet ready. A few more years in the bottle will do it well. Flowery scents of violets and roses come through along with berries and red fruits. This will be delicious in 3-5 years.

To contact Amayna for visits or to inquire about purchasing wines, email Hugo at or visit the website:

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