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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A Delicious Trio of Aromatic Whites from Chile

By now, most wine lovers know Chile as a source for excellent Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc. Those paying closer attention also realize that there is terrific Pinot Noir and Chardonnay reaching our shores from Chile. That, however, is just the entrée into the remarkable diversity and quality that Chile offers, often at outstanding price-points that will make you take note. Among the reasons that so many diverse grapes flourish in Chile is the regional diversity. Whether we’re talking about valley floors, mountain ranges or vineyards influenced by ocean breezes, Chile has them all — and more.

One of the things that particularly struck me when I was down in Chile was the number of aromatic white wines being produced by some wineries. Sometimes, they were small production items for larger wineries; in other cases, part of their main line of wines. The bottom line is that there are many wines in this general category worth both the time and money of interested wine lovers. With that in mind, I sat down and tasted some offerings that fit the grouping, and selected three standouts to look at.

First up is the Cono Sur 2012 Bicicleta Viognier. This wine was produced using hand-harvested fruit from the Colchagua region of Chile. It is a 100 percent varietal wine. Fermentation was accomplished in stainless steel tanks followed by eight months of aging. This wine most often sells for right around $10. Apricots, Lychee fruit and hints of white pepper all but explode from the nose of this Viognier. Peach and apricot star on the light palate that practically bounces on the tongue with enticing fruity goodness. Lemon zest, minerals and continues spice make up the finish, which has nice length. This is a crisp and refreshing wine that is vibrant and alive; if it could speak it would scream summer. I taste a lot of wine every week and there are those that — even though I like them a lot — I can put down easily. This Viognier from Cono Sur was not one of those. It is so mellifluous and engaging that I was compelled to keep drinking it

The Meli 2011 Riesling was produced entirely from fruit sourced in the Maule region. The fruit for this wine is 100 percent Riesling and was entirely hand-harvested. Fermentation took place over two weeks in stainless steel tanks. This offering most often sells for right around $12. White flower and stone fruit aromas abound on the nose of this Riesling. The palate is gentle and layered with continued stone fruit joined by spice and almond characteristics. The finish shows off tiny touches of mesquite honey and petrol. This is a perfectly dry, remarkably crisp wine that’s delicious on its own, and also paired with lighter foods.

Finally, we have the Anakena 2011 ONA White Blend. This offering combines Riesling (43 percent), Chardonnay (42 percent), and Viognier (15 percent). The fruit was sourced at the winery’s Las Brisas Vineyard in Leyda Valley. After fermentation, this wine was barrel-aged for approximately nine months. This wine most often sells for right around $15. Golden delicious apple, lemon and Lychee fruit aromas are present on the nose of this blend from Anakena. The palate is loaded with flavors that are simultaneously diverse and harmonious in their cohesion. Peach, apricot, bits of lemon zest and hints of orchard fruit are all present, along with spices galore. Bits of Granny Smith apple and green herb emerge on the finish, which is crisp, clean and pleasing. This wine grabs you and makes you reach back for sip after delicious sip.

With the warm weather months here I find myself reaching for white wine more often than not. In fact, I generally always have a few bottles chilled, whether it’s to pair with the lighter foods of summer or simply to sip on my deck. There is something about the warmth of the season that brings out my desire to drink whites far more often than at other times of the year. These three wines from Chile are perfectly suited for drinking all summer. They’re aromatic, refreshing and loaded with character. Each of them also represents an excellent value. I heartily recommend them and hope they’re a jumping off point for the exploration of the bounty that Chile offers in diverse, well-made, fantastically priced, aromatic white wines. There is no end to the diversity that Chile offers; even these wines are from three unique regions. The more of Chile you taste, the more impressed you’re bound to be.

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