I’ve gained a new appreciation for Chilean wine. It’s distinct (at least for Cabernets and Carmeneres), it’s flavourful, and getting better and better quality wise.
Last week, I attended a luncheon tasting of 8 Montes wines. The “big” guys were left out this time, but it was promised that we would taste these in the very near future. The “big” guys referring to the Purple Angel, a Carmenere/Petit Verdot blend, the Alpha M, a Bordeaux blend, and Folly, a 100% Syrah. These are all big, intense wines, capable of long term ageing. I truly cannot wait to try them!
Sebastian Alvial from Montes was around to share with us about the winery and the wines. Montes is currently practising Dry Farming on their Alpha level wines (and this line in general is really their main focus for the winery) which is significantly increasing the quality of their wine. So what is Dry Farming?
- All the rows are covered with wood bark which saves in water as it absorbs the rains that fall between July and September. (19% water savings)
- The canopy is shortened from 1.8 meters to 60-80 cm in height with less leaves, which would consume less water. (13% water savings)
- 65% in total water savings by not irrigating. Irrigation is not practised unless it is absolutely necessary.
- Cluster size is significantly reduced which further reduces yields – from 125 g clusters to 97 g clusters.
- Wine production per vine is decreased. From a full bottle to about 2/3 of a bottle.
All of this brings enriched fruit and aromatic expression, soft tannins and richer colour. The roots have to dig deep down, bringing minerality to the wine. Not only that, Montes is sustainable, which I think many vineyards are trying to achieve in the South American wine growing regions. That’s fair salaries and education for their workers.
Montes has 6 vineyards in Chile, North from the Aconcagua Valley, south to Itata. All reds come from the Colchagua Valley at either the Marchigue or Apalta Vineyards.
So what DID we taste?
- 2014 Montes Classic Sauvignon Blanc– This wine surprised me. I seriously didn’t think I’d like it, but it was fresh and lively with huge aromatics and a hint of effervescence on the palate, indicating high, refreshing acidity. Grown in their Zapallar Vineyard up in the Leyda Valley, this vineyard is located only 7 km from the Pacific Ocean, benefitting from cool ocean breezes to keep the acidity naturally high in the grapes. Fresh herbs mixed with pink grapefruit, lime citrus and hints of tropical fruits made this wine refreshing and easily quaffable. Great price too! SR $15.95
- 2012 Montes Alpha Chardonnay – From Casablanca, this vineyard is 30 km from the ocean and has the dense fogs similar to Carneros, which again, keeps the grapes from ripening too fast and keeps the acidity naturally high. In the past, this wine tended to be over oaked, so the formula has since changed to only 40% of the wine aged in oak for a period of 8 months in 2nd-3rd use oak, along with 30% MLF. Great baked apple, cream and yogurt on this wine with a tangy finish. Really easy to drink without the big bad oak that can sometimes overwhelm Chilean Chards. SR $25.95
- 2014 Montes Classic Malbec – Not known for their Malbec as much as their Carmenere, Montes does a good job of this varietal grown in the Marchigue Vineyard which, according to Sebastian, is very much like a Savanna; open, exposed and hot temps, yet with cool breezes circulating through the vineyard. And the vines are nearing 100 years old! Aged six months in French oak, the wine is inky dark with intense black fruit flavours along with hints of vanilla and spice. SR $16.95
- 2014 Montes Classic Cabernet Sauvignon– What a great little wine! Lots of flavour and great value! There is 15% Merlot in this wine to smooth out the palate, and there’s loads of plum, black cherry, spice, smoke, coffee with hints of mint and mocha on the finish. Truly remarkable at the Classic level, which makes the Alpha wines even more spectacular! SR $16.95
- 2013 Montes Twins – Named ‘Twins’ as this wine contains 50/50 of Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon. A whimsical label that might appeal to some but repel others! It definitely had that sweet smoke and vanilla but it was HOT at first. It took some time to really calm down in the alcohol. The point of this wine was to really bring out the characteristics of the varietals. The firm tannins of the Cabernet combined with the velvety and smooth body from the Malbec made this a nicely balanced wine (save the alcohol). SR $19.95
- 2014 Montes Limited Selection Cabernet Carmenere – Sourced from the Marchigue and Apalta vineyards, this wine is a blend of 70/30 Cabernet/Carmenere. This was a particularly cool year with more frosts than usual and 30% less than normal rainfall in both vineyards. This made the yields lower which resulted in a higher concentration wine. A portion of the wine was aged in French oak for 10 months and at 13.5% abv, this wine was very balanced. Lots of dark berries with complexities of chocolate, cigar box, coffee and vanilla. Very rich on the palate with a long finish. SR $21.95
- 2012 Montes Alpha Syrah– This was the first vintage Dry Farmed and was awarded 92 points on Wine Spectator. Holy huge wine, Batman. With 90% Syrah, complemented with 7% Cabernet Sauvignon and 3% Viognier, this wine is lush with bold blackberry, black cherry, pepper and smoked meat flavours. The oak is integrated nicely giving the spice and mocha accents. With Dry Farming, there is potential to age, and in my estimation, this wine could go for another 10 years easily. SR $28.95
- 2012 Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon – Another Dry Farmed wine with 92 Pints from James Suckling. Softened with 10% Merlot, at 14% abv, you really can’t tell it’s that high in alcohol as it is well integrated. Simply put, I love this wine. I’m not a huge Cabernet fan by any stretch, but if I had to choose a Cab, I’d choose this one. Nor would I send it back if it was served to me. 50% is aged for 12 months in 2nd & 3rd use French oak. I love the distinctive tar and smoke in Chilean wines. Add to that the black fruits of cassis, blackberry, and blackcherry along with toasted oak and vanilla with round and silky tannins, full body and a long finish, you’ve got yourself a pretty complex wine. And the price? Well now…SOLD! SR $28.95
Ampersand served some awesome flatbread, charcouterie, cheeses and various pickled veggies to satisty our appetites while we tasted the wines. I was having a bit of a bad day so this really helped me forget about some troubles for a bit! Thank you Sebastian for sharing your knowledge and your wines and to Ryan and the Trialto Wine Group for hosting the event! Cin Cin!