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He may be a native Burgundian, but Louis-Antoine Luyt has quickly become a seminal voice in the fight for independent, terroir driven winemaking in Chile. In a country where wine production is run almost entirely by enormous industrial wineries, Luyt has managed to source fruit and rent vines from independent farmers throughout the Maule Valley. Furthermore, his insistence on dry farming, horse plowing, organic viticulture and native yeast/intervention free winemaking are welcome proof that wines outside of Europe can succesfully be produced with this work philosophy.
At 22, Luyt was sick of living in France. With the excuse of polishing up his Spanish, he planned a 3 month trip to South America. This quickly became a permanent vacation of sorts, and needing to find work, L.A found a gig as a dishwasher at a local restaurant. Working his way up, he eventually became the wine buyer and was introduced to Hector Vergara, who at the time was the only Master of Wine in South America. Hector was opening a sommelier school in Santiago, and Louis-Antoine was amongst his first students.
This gave L.A the opportunity to taste wines from all over the world, but because of the school's location, a particularly strong focus was accorded to Chilean wines. Shocked at how homogenized and boring the wines tasted to him, Louis Antoine started asking himself if this was a result of place or winemaking, and if great wine could be made in Chile at all. Through extensive research, he discovered that independently run parcels did in fact still exist, but the grapes were either being sold to huge wineries or being used by the local peasants to make wine for personal consumption.
A plan was beginning to form...
The next step was to learn how to make wine. Louis-Antoine flew back to France to study viticulture and oenology in Beaune. During his studies, he befriended Mathieu Lapierre, and a subsequent 5 consecutive harvests in Villié-Morgon led to a great friendship with the Lapierre family. It was also L.A's introduction to natural wine, a philosophy he became determined to bring back to Chile.
Now armed with a firm knowledge of viticulture and winemaking, Louis-Antoine founded Clos Ouvert with two partners in 2006: the project focused on sourcing organic, fair trade fruit and making spontaneous fermentation, intervention-free wines to export to France. But the disastrous 2010 earthquake resulted in a loss of 70% of their 2009 production, and Louis-Antoine's partners backed out. Instead of giving up, L.A pushed things further: he immediately started renting 8 hectares of vines and started vinifying two new lines of wines, all while continuing to make Clos Ouvert bottlings.
2010 was the first vintage of the País line, the only line of Chilean wines following the European model of using the same varietal to highlight different terroirs. In such, each bottling is named after a specific parcel: Quenehuao, Pilen Alto and Trequilemu are all "lieu-dits" with their own soil composition, expositions, elevations and micro-climates. Chile was never struck with phylloxera, and these vines are all very old and still on their original rootstock. The Quenehuao vines are 300 years old!
The other new line is produced with French varieties (Pinot Noir, Carignan, Cinsault), and are adorned with colorful labels inspired by Santiago's public transit system. All the vines are tended organically and many parcels are worked by horse. Nothing is ever irrigated, a true rarity and flat out ballsy, commendable move for South American winemaking. Vinification is done naturally, often with a carbonic maceration.
We are very excited to be working with these wines and proud to support Louis-Antoine's current and future efforts!
A Guide to Making Sense of the PAIS Range of the L-A Luyt Wines First there are the Pipeño wines: The Pipeño wines are a tradition of "primeur" or "nouveau" that was sold in bulk from barrels in the cities of Chile in the month of September following the harvest in February/March. Louis-Antoine sought out the makers of theses wines with the best reputation and talked to them about working together and bottling their wine for the first time. As L-A says, these are very simple vinifications, destemmed grapes, crushed and then just open-fermented, in his case in cement vats, with punchdown.They were bottled in early August. L-A made 4 of the 2015 wines - Santa Juana, Coelemu, Coronel de Maule and Piluco. Mateo Saavedra made the Yumbel and Marco Montecino made the Portozuelo with constant input and presence of Louis-Antoine. The important factor in the marked differences in the wine is the grape itself, Pais. According to L-A, the vineyard work in all the vineyards he works with is the same, so that is not the factor. On the other hand, there are variations in soil (almost all clay-based with different composites of iron, manganese, sand, granite and/or quartz), microclimate (valleys, 1st hillsides, flats, maritime influence, etc) and age of vines (from 180 to 300 years old) that truly transform the grape which expresses its terroir so well. Louis-Antoine has found himself madly obsessing over trying to bring out all of these nuances in the wine. Next the Pais estate wines: Essentially the "País de ..." and "Huasa de..." wines are País wines, still from purchased grapes that went through a longer maceration after the fermentation is finished, about two weeks and that need a longer aging before they can be bottled and released. In this case all the wines are made by Louis-Antoine. "Huasa" means Gaucho in Chile-speak and in this case signifies that wine was made in or aged in wood barrels. País de…. signifies a strictly tank wine.