When we were in Chile a few months ago, we visited Vina Corpora (VC) and tasted its growing portfolio of wines from the Bio Bio Valley in the far south of Chile. There’s a strong French influence at VC, with Patrick Piuze of Chablis advising on the Chardonnay and Pascal Marchand of Burgundy having advised on the Pinot Noir. [Actually, since both Piuze and Marchand are originally from Canada, it’s more appropriate to call this a French Canadian influence.] And the wines show it. The wines emphasize refinement, balance, and expression of terroir instead of simple, concentrated fruit flavors. Fortunately, these wines are now available in the US under the Llai Llai brand, thanks to importer WJ Deutsch.
The fruit for the Chardonnay comes from VC’s 250 hectare Miraflores Estate, located adjacent to the Bio Bio River that snakes its way from the Andes to the Pacific. The soils here range from sandy to alluvial. The fruit for the Pinot Noir comes from the Yumbel Vineyard (formerly called the Quinel Estate) with mostly clay and volcanic residual soil. Just 59 km from the sea, the Yumbel is cool with a significant maritime influence. For more on the Bio Bio and Chilean wines more generally, see our report The Chilean Wine Revolution, published earlier this year.
Although not well known in North America, VC is one of Chile’s larger wine producers. Its two main brands are Gracia and Agustinos. On our visit we tasted several Gracia and Agustinos Chardonnays and Pinot Noirs from VC’s wine estates in southern Chile. We can only hope that they begin exporting more to our shores soon.
Llai Llai 2008 Chardonnay Bio Bio Valley ($13) 89
If you like your Chardonnays bold, cloying and in-your-face, this one isn’t for you. The Llai Llai Chardonnay from the far-south of Chile is a nuanced wine that’s more like a Chardonnay from Northern Burgundy than Northern California. Showing pear, apple, lees and herbs on the nose, it offers a lightly flavored, smoothly textured palate of herbs and chalky minerals, finishing clean, crisp, and long. It has good acidity despite having gone through 100 percent malo. Hand-harvested fruit from the Miraflores estate with whole cluster fermentation in French oak (50%) and stainless steel (50%). Showing excellent balance and finesse, this is a superb value.
Llai Llai 2008 Pinot Noir Bio Bio Valley ($13) 89
Dark cherry, herbs, and a touch of earth and smoke show on both the nose and palate of this bargain-priced, single vineyard (Yumbel Estate) Pinot Noir that could easily pass for a good quality village wine from the Côte de Nuits. Shows excellent balance with good acidity, accessible tannins, modest concentration of cherry fruit, and a long, flavorful finish. In a world of overly sweet, high alcohol, cola-infused, entry level Pinot Noirs, this one stands out. Hand-harvested, cold fermented, and partially aged in 1-year old French oak. Excellent value!