There’s a just-arrived perfect addition to the liquor cabinet, having travelled 8,600 kilometres from Chile.
He was in Toronto recently promoting the new release, an extra-dry medium-bodied wine grown at Colchagua Valley. It embodies a fruity taste with tones of Mediterranean herbs; a blend of 50 percent Cariñena, 30 percent Grenache and 20 percent Monastrell from high density, slope vineyards on granite soils.
The grapes underwent a seven-day cold soak, and then fermented with selected yeasts, followed by six months in second and third use French oak barrels.
Viña Montes is widely considered a trailblazer in Chilean wines. Their first vintage, the 1987 Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon, was considered Chile’s first premium wine, placing the country on the wine map. Today, the company distributes across 110 countries and creates iconic wines as Montes Folly Syrah, Montes Alpha M, Purple Angel, and Taita.
Finding unique areas to grow the crops, Aurelio Montes Sr. has planted in previously unused regions: Apalta and Marchigüe in the Colchagua Valley; and more recently, coastal Zapallar in the Aconcagua Valley. The results have proven to enhance the flavours greatly.
Viña Montes’ 2015 pinot noir benefits from the cold current that comes from the Arctic, climbing down the Pacific Ocean. Spring and summer provide ample heat, while the winter is chilly and rainy. Never blended, the pinot exhibits tones of a little sourness, with hints of strawberry. 30 percent of the barrels are French oak, and the other 70 percent are stainless steel barrels.
“The tannins are so smooth. They have a certain sensuality. It is a special wine for game – like partridges, or deer, or wild boar. It’s a wine that can stand a good piece of meat,” says Montes. “It wraps around the tongue with this velvety sensation.”
Blending depends on the year and temperatures – unexpected rain, cold or sun could affect the taste of the grape. Too much rain can weaken the grapes; too much heat can shrivel them, and make the taste too strong, he explains, so some compensation from other grapes are needed. Blending also occurs when a particular grape is grown is too hard-edged or soft.
One example is their cabernet, a “masculine and powerful” wine, where he often adds ten percent “feminine and smooth” Merlot for balance, a practice also used in France. With notes of black currant and red berries, the cab is “a full wine. It will go with a big steak.” These grapes require cold nights, where they develop their best tastes.
The Syrah, meanwhile, grows well on very steep slopes. “They are weird grapes. A very nice spicy flavour – you get a bit of black pepper, some bacon flavours.”
But it’s not necessarily a meal food-pairing wine, he explains. Rather, he recommends it’s best for those relaxing fireplace moments, perhaps coupled with some dark chocolate.
Wine Spectator magazine in 2015 called Montes Sr. the leader of the Chilean wine industry, and Wine Enthusiast awarded him the “2015 Innovator-Executive of the Year” Award.
But it was not enough for Montes simply excel at making wine; he wanted to excel at good stewardship of the land that has given him so much.
He realized he wanted his production to be more environmentally conscious, venturing the company into sustainability practices in 2010.
Using water-saving techniques, they pared down their usage by three-quarters, which he says is equivalent to the needs of 20,000 people annually. The project culminated in the production of the Montes Alpha Dry Farmed wines in 2015.
Most Viña Montes wines are available in the LCBO.