South American wines have enjoyed quite a run in the United States, thanks to their reasonable prices and their boringly even quality. They aren’t terrible, but they aren’t, for the most part, the least bit special. So when one comes along that truly breaks the mold, it really stands out.
Louis-Antoine Luyt is a winemaker who saw an opportunity in the sea of completely ordinary wines he tasted in Chile. Bored with living in France, he arrived there as a 22 year old, got a job as a dishwasher and worked his way up to wine buyer. After studying winemaking in a class, he decided to go back to France to learn more. He studied in Beaune and worked five harvests under the tutelage of Mathieu Lapierre (the son of the legendary Marcel Lapierre) in Morgon, and then returned to Chile determined to make extraordinary wines. He found a number of small vineyards with very old vines (some as old as 300 years), but their grapes were either being sold off to huge wineries or being made into so-so wines by the locals for their own consumption. So he took over the vineyards and employed Lapierre’s techniques, converting to organic farming, plowing with horses, and staying away from irrigation. Now he makes arguably the most interesting and complex Chlean wines out there.
In the winery, Luyt uses only natural yeasts and minimal sulfur. The wines undergo carbonic maceration and they are all remarkably low in alcohol. The result is Chilean wine that can stand up to the finest red wines anywhere in the world. The Carignan Trequilemu is made from 70 year-old vines, and is a rich, dark, earthy beauty that’s amazingly vibrant and alive. 12.9% alcohol levels are a big reason why.
We sneak slightly over the $20 a bottle criteria with this one, but for a couple of bucks more you’ll get a whole new take on Chilean wines. I remember all too well my reaction to Luyt’s wines when I first sampled them, and I know you’ll enjoy that same revelatory experience. The label, inspired by the Santiago transit system, is a standout, too. You can’t miss it in a retail environment.