Chile’s First Growth
Sebastian Alvial, Export Manager of Vina Montes was here in Edmonton (at Vines Wine Merchants) to offer us a great glimpse of the wonderful wines created by one of the world’s greatest winemakers, Aurelio Montes.
One thing I would like to stress is the premium quality of all of Montes creations. Aurelio was the very first to recognize the incredible potential of Chile’s hillside vineyards and he was also the first to plant his now world recognized wines in such areas as Apalta. Aurelio’s goal was to create some of the finest, most delicious premium quality wines ever produced in Chile. The Montes Alpha line were those premium wines and what followed caused its own revolution.
Here are my impressions of the wines we tasted.
We started with the 2011 Alpha Chardonnay. This wine has all the traits of combining the elegance of Burgundy with the richness of California. So if you love rich chardonnay fruit with the right balance of oak (not too much, not to little…just right), then this is the right wine for you!
We then compared two vintages of their Alpha “M” (both have the same breakdown: 80% cabernet sauvignon, 10% cabernet franc, 5% petit verdot, 5% merlot). Both vintages were exceptional, from cool vintages entirely from the Apalta vineyards. Alpha M, first launched in 1998, quickly gained the international reputation as one of Chile’s best Bordeaux style wines.
The 2010 Alpha M: Great Bordeaux blend with incredible aging potential. This wine can easily be compared to a 2nd Growth Pauillac wine for a fraction of the price.
The 2011 Alpha M is slightly more “feminine” (more like a St. Julien style) but with so much grace and velvety textures.
Our tasters slightly preferred the power of the 2010 vs. the elegance of the 2011. I personally could not choose.
What followed then were two vintages of Purple Angel, arguably Chile’s best carmenère.
Carmenere (a late ripening grape) has had a bad name in Chile for a good many years, first because it was mistaken for merlot (an early ripening grape) and harvested as merlot, thereby creating strong green flavours that easily offended many consumers and secondly because there were so many cheap versions out there that gave the grape such a bad name and reputation. The main reason for this was because this grape, which is a difficult grape to grow, needs lots of attention so perfecting vineyard management techniques became an important tool in creating this new version and correct style of wine.
Both the 2011 Purple Angel (the last few cases left of this vintage) and the upcoming 2012 Purple Angel (preview wine as the 2012 will be arriving in approximately 6 months) have such beautiful dark black fruit aromas and textures that is was very hard to put both glasses down. Simply gorgeous and as we say here at Vines “honking delicious”. This was certainly the favourite of the evening.
We ended our tasting with the 2011 Folly, again arguably Chile’s best syrah. I had the privilege to be invited to the official launch of the 2000 Folly in New York (in 2002) and this is what I wrote. “While Montes produces a tremendous Alpha Syrah with a peppery and full bodied concentration, Folly is similar to the Alpha syrah as a bear cub is to a raging Kodiak. Despite the 14.8%, the balance is incredible. The richness, depth and length are all quasi-indestructible. They go on and on. What a rush!”
The 2011 Folly (15%) takes me back to that initial feeling of exuberance. It continues to flex its muscle but without that overpower and overbearing presence along with such imposing structure and finish. What a rush! I have yet to encounter a better syrah!