Farmer: Patricio Martinez. Mainly Torontel + Corinta (Chasselas) + Cristalina (Semillon) + Muscat d’Alexandria from organic, dry-farmed bush vines ranging from 100 to 200 years old on thin, red clay soils rich in decomposed granite, high in the hills of the Portezuelo sub-zone of the small Itata region of Chile. The bunches are harvested by hand and manually destemmed using a traditional zaranda; fermented spontaneously with indigenous yeasts in open wooden lagares; and macerated for 10-12 days with the skins in wooden tanks called pipas (from which the name “pipeño” is derived). The wine receives a very small amount of sulfur and a gentle filtration before bottling in liters.
Portezuelo does not look, feel or taste like a skin-fermented or "orange" wine in spite of what sounds like a long maceration for a white wine. It is light and all-white in color, flavor and weight, with a clean texture, white-flower aromas and a fresh, bright, dry finish.
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, L.A has managed to source fruit and rent vines from independent farmers throughout the Maule Valley. Furthermore, his insistance 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, L.A 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, with of course a particularly strong focus accorded to Chile. 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, forcing Louis-Antoine's partners to back out of the project. Instead of giving up, L.A pushed things further: he immediately started renting 8 hectares of vines and vinifying two new lines of wines, all while continuing to make Clos Ouvert bottlings.