MONTES wines brought quantum change to the Chilean wine scene: world-class quality at a time when the industry was producing oceans of undistinguished cheap wine.
At age 39 with five kids and a wife, Aurelio Montes quit his job and set out to create a new niche in Chilean wines: high-caliber but still affordable. With partners, he launched Viña Montes in 1987. To achieve his goal, he saw the need for selecting better clones and planting in untested sites in the Colchagua Valley — on the hillsides and steep slopes.
He planted vineyards and would eventually build his $7 million winery in the region of Apalta, where today the country’s iconic wines are grown, where it’s hot and dry in the summer, making it ideal for Bordeaux and Rhone varietals. His Marchigüe estate is in a flatter area of Apalta, and the Zapallar estate is close to the Pacific — offering fog and cool breezes that make it ideal for white varietals and slow-ripening reds.
Aurelio Montes energized the Chilean wine industry, raising the bar higher for everyone, and got the world to notice. Fifteen years after he established Montes, he crossed the Andes into Argentina for a new venture, Kaiken, which sailed to success as well. (See tomorrow’s blog.)
Montes Twins Red Blend Colchagua Valley, Chile 2014, $15: A mix of Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Tempranillo and Carmènere, this bold red blend has power, depth of flavor, soft tannins and balance. It’s an intensely flavored dry blend with aromas of dark berries, dark olives, cherry, dark roast coffee and brown baking spices. It’s an approachable wine that invites you to try another glass. The “Twins” blend began as a collaboration between Aurelio Montes and his son Aurelio Jr.
Montes Alpha Syrah Colchagua Valley, Chile 2013, $25: Muscle and beauty — that’s how you sum up this big red. It’s complex and full-bodied, and a fruit bomb of dark berries, cherries, sweet baking spices, hazelnut and black pepper. Texture is creamy. Tannins are ripe and round. It’s produced off sites in the Colchagua Valley — on the slopes of Apalta with its thinner rocky soils and the flatter Marchigüe with its shallow soils. The Syrah is filled out with 7 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 3 percent Viognier. Aurelio Montes was the first to plant Syrah in Colchagua. The Montes Alpha wines are synonymous with quality.
You can reach Sandra Silfven at firstname.lastname@example.org.