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Vina Montes epitomizes Chilean quality

Viña Montes in Chile has been around for 25 years now. In that time, they’ve been a part of the Renaissance that has occurred in Chile, with quality and diversity rising dramatically year after year, and meeting with what was already a wine region that offered value. As with most Chilean brands, they offer a broad range of wines at numerous price points aimed at a varied consumer base with a multitude of needs. This vast range of wines is produced with a multitude of intents. All told, they make close to a million cases of wine, some in small lots and others in large quantities. Here’s a look at three current releases that are widely available across the country.

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First up is the Montes Alpha 2011 Chardonnay. The fruit for this offering was sourced in the Casablanca Valley. This Chardonnay is a 100 percent varietal wine. Aging took place over 12 months with 40 percent of the wine seeing time in French oak, the balance in stainless steel. This wine has a suggested retail price of $25. The Montes Alpha Tier of wines was on the forefront of Chile’s entry and innovation into to premium wine space. Pineapple aromas light up the nose of this Chardonnay, with pear and apple characteristics as the dominant fruits on the palate. Toward the back end, the apple quality picks up a bit of lovely green tartness. This is accompanied by baker’s spices, star anise and a gentle kiss of crème fraiche. Here’s an example of Chardonnay that is absolutely studded with lively fruit and true varietal character. The barrel treatment enhances those flavors, adds complexity and never detracts. This is an elegant Chardonnay for the money. I recommend serving a few degrees warmer than the typical white wine as it shows off more of its charms that way.

The Montes Alpha 2010 Cabernet Sauvignon was produced from fruit sourced in Colchagua Valley, one of Chile’s best Cab regions. This wine blends together Cabernet Sauvignon (90 percent) and Merlot (10 percent), one of its most natural partners. After fermentation this wine was aged in a combination of new and used French oak barrels over a period of 12 months. About 100,000 cases of this wine were bottled and it has a suggested retail price of $25. Plum and bramble aromas leap from the nose of this Cabernet Sauvignon. Dark fruits rule the day here and blackberry, black raspberry and more fill out the palate, while little wisps of red fruit do pop through every now and then, adding to the depth. Espresso and black pepper spice are both prominent on the finish, which has good length. Firm tannins and solid acidity lend to the overall well-proportioned nature and structure of this wine. For $25 or less this is very good value in Cabernet Sauvignon. Some lesser examples from other regions often sell for close to twice the price. Grab up a case of this wine and drink it over the next five years and enjoy its evolution.

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Lastly, we have the Montes 2010 Purple Angel Carménère. This wine was produced from two of Montes’ top estates within the Colchagua region. In addition to Carménère (92 percent), this offering also has some Petit Verdot (8 percent) blended in. After fermentation this wine was aged over 18 months in entirely new French oak barrels. They produced 13,500 6-pack cases of this wine, and it has a suggested retail price of $60. As the name implies, the hue of this wine is dark purple. Violet aromas with wisps of vanilla bean emerge from the nose. The palate is impossibly deep with dark, brooding fruit flavors galore. Blackberry, plum and boysenberry are present to name a few. Lots of spice elements are in play here as well. The deep, dense flavors on the palate fall right into a long, lingering and ultimately lusty finish that features espresso, earth, chicory and sweet dark chocolate characteristics. The tannins, which are firm and have substantial grip, soften nicely with some air. I recommend decanting this for at least an hour if you’re going to drink it over the next year or two. Year after year Purple Angel is an incredibly appealing wine that has knockout potential. Those who have never tasted it are almost always blown away. The 2010 vintage is no exception.

This trio of wines from Viña Montes offers a little window into their portfolio. On the one hand you have Cabernet and Chardonnay which represent two of the most widely planted varietals in the world. The examples here from Montes provide oodles of quality and refinement in their categories, easily delivering well more than average for what the price tag says. On the other side you have Purple Angel, one of the great Carménère-based wines in the world. And while it’s in a higher price bracket than the Alpha tier wines, it also represents a significant value. Carménère of this quality is well worth that price tag. This is a wine that is absolutely stunning and impressive today, particularly after a couple of hours in the decanter. It’s also a terrific choice to lay down for the next six or seven years and pull out for a special occasion down the line. My larger point is that these wines are the tip of the iceberg — both for Montes in particular and Chile in the larger picture. Drink wines from both often, your taste buds and your budget will thank you.

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