Andrea Leon, Making Chilean Wine Mean More
Meet Cellr’s weekly crush, Andrea Leon who is a winemaker at Lapostolle winery in Apalta in the Colchagua Valley of Chile. Andrea’s journey into winemaking can be traced back to her childhood where she had an immense love for the outdoors, which eventually led her to studying agricultural engineering before going on to study oenology. Her way with nature, educational background and passion for the art of wine combine into a beautiful style of winemaking, which focuses on crafting the wine with nature and terroir. Beyond being a highly regarded producer, Andrea also has a thorough understanding on consumer behavior and their relationship with the wine market- making her a real industry allrounder. But this introduction isn’t doing her enough justice, so I will let you get on to reading what she has to say for herself.
We always have to ask, do you have a winery pet?
Meeting cute animals, one of the perks of working on a vineyard with an organic & sustainable vision. We have sheep, alpacas and some geese to keep us company.
You really work to craft your wine along with nature and terroir. You don’t necessarily see one particular piece of land as being better or worse, just another opportunity to work with the grapes to bring their best characteristics to light. Where did you develop this approach, and why is it such an important part of your winemaking philosophy?
I think it kind of grew naturally on me, over time during my winemaking work but mostly in the vineyard. I am naturally a very curious person. So exploring how in different territories, nature and man together, can landscape a place that then has a unique interpretation in the wines it can produce is truly fascinating. This respect for diversity is the base to enrich the culture of wine and its origin.
Between your technical skills through studying agricultural engineering, a strong relationship with Chilean nature and your experience as a highly respected Chilean winemaker, which of these do you value the most as a winemaker?
In my opinion, you need a strong scientific base (in both viticulture and winemaking), but also to have a good sense of intuition- mostly to make terroir driven wines. You need the technical side to have the tools to understand and solve problems you will find in the field as well as in the winery, but it is your relationship with nature that allows you to develop a feeling that a particular style will better fit a specific vineyard site. Grapes should always talk about their origin. Crafting wine with a unique mix of science, but also a good deal of intuition at the end. And you have to have that “gut feeling”-, the science side helps to make it faster over time, sustainable in time and brings an element of objectivity as well. I think you need a balance of these two sides: the science/“operational” side of the craft, but also you need to have a lot of passion and almost an artistic side for crafting a wine.
What do you think makes Chilean wine so distinct from the rest of the world, and what was it that drew you to Syrah in the series of Seven Syrah’s you produced across many different terroirs in Chile?
What makes Chile so interesting is the peculiar and diverse geography, which creates many possibilities for producing very diverse wines. Our country comes from a clash of the Pacific Ocean and the Andes Mountains, and everything in between this extremely long & skinny stretch of land. I Love Syrah. It’s a rather new variety in Chile (from 90’s), and has adapted extremely well to very different sites and climates throughout Chile. From coastal cold places, to high altitude, to the more classic middle valley. It is expressive and versatile, and those characteristics made syrah a good example to showcase terroir and the landscape and make wines that always deliver quality and mostly character.
On the Wine Market…We asked Andrea to shed some light on her experience in the wine market, as a big part of what we do at Cellr is make true direct to consumer marketing easy for producers. Find out more here.
What do you think gets people the most excited about the wine you produce for Clos Apalta and Lapostolle?
The pure style, plus the wide diversity of wines one can enjoy from the same vineyard. Some wines are light and fresh while others are very opulent and intense, all made with a quality approach and looking to express their origin. We also have the long term vision of the French, of blending and ageability of our wines.
What do you think is the most important aspect of a wine that a person drinking it should know about, and further what is the story that a winery should be telling?
First of all is how the wine will taste, as that brings in the origin and the grape varietal, and eventually the terroir and how it’s made. More details like who the people are that produce it, how many years the vineyard has been on that land and who is taking care of it are also important. Also, if the production of that wine contributed to the place and people near it in a sustainable way.
How well do you find the wine industry connects with its consumers, and in what ways is it challenging?
The industry connects very well with the trade, press and somms, but it’s a complex industry that seems intimidating or very complicated for most consumers.
Wine is a big part of the culture in the old world, and you usually drink the wines from your region, as it is a product linked to its origin. In the new world we drink more for flavors (grape varieties) and we are still in the process of building that identity, that culture.
So, as an industry we need to be friendlier, speak with more relatable words and enchant rather than confuse and scare our consumers. Visiting the places, the wineries, is a very important tool to achieve this. As is educating consumers in a way that is interesting, fun and inviting, so wine producers are able to convey what we do to create the flavor of the wine.
On Supply Chains: We asked Andrea about her views on authentication and her current supply chain management. At Cellr we want to understand how producers feel about the current systems in place and make a packaging solution that is consistent with what they need. Find out what we do for brand protection and supply chain track and trace.
Talk to us about your supply chain, does Clos Apalta and Lapostolle currently have visibility of your products after they leave the winery? What impact would having detailed data showing you where (in the world) and when your wine is being opened by the consumer?
Our distributors are a big help in following our consumers drinking patterns and where our wine is being enjoyed, giving us weekly feedback. Having a tool that communicates directly with the consumer opening that bottle would help reduce the distance we have with our consumers.
With the global explosion of wine fraud pushing into the mid/premium brackets due to sheer volume, how important is it for wine consumers to be able to identify your (legitimate) products via anti-counterfeit measures?
At the winery, we are currently working on a project that will allow the consumer to identify their bottle directly with us, and will give us feedback on where those consumers acquire their bottles. Is important that as an industry we understand these issues and help take care not only of the reputation of our wines but also our customer expectations that can be compromised by a forgery.
What do you think the future for wine is as the world becomes more connected online?
The internet gives us an opportunity to communicate directly face to face with our consumers. To bring our wines to life for them! To talk about our wines and projects in ways that are almost like a conversation. This will bring consumers closer to their favorite wineries through online tools and social media, such as seminars and live feeds, that won’t require travel or a other major expenses.