Aurelio Montes has built a wine empire of sorts, to put it mildly. He has been making wine in Chile for over three decades, but is also doing things in Argentina, Italy, and, in his latest foray, Napa Valley. “I love cabernet sauvignon, for the challenges and the rewards,” says Aurelio. We are in a small wine education room at Everything Wine, where we are tasting the icon wines, and a few other things he has on the go. Foremost on his mind are the twin impetuses of value and varietal expression. “For me, the foreboding tannic wines are not what I want. There are great wines in Bordeaux that have those qualities, but that has never been my wish, to simply copy Bordeaux. I am interested, however, in what great cabernet sauvignon can be.”
The Montes machine has taken the world by storm, beginning with its high-quality value wines, which helped put Chile on the international wine map. The Purple Angel, a marvelous cabernet grown on some of Chile’s finest vineyards, made by Aurelio himself, is a project he is proud of. “Yes, I knew the Angel would be good, but the reception around the world was gratifying. Still, I think it is only a part of a whole idea, the idea of what good winemaking, and good fruit from the vineyards can be.”
The Montes line is not exactly entry level, but they have a few fantastic wines under $20 in the Canadian market, including the remarkable malbec. Or, a pinot noir that will have heads from other parts of the New-World wagging, since it is so varietally correct, a bit on the luscious side, and also under $20. Aurelio is also responsible for the remarkable Kaiken Malbec and Kaiken Cabernet Sauvignon, that represent extreme value while providing true varietal character and fine structure. Then there are the wines we are tasting today: the Montes carmenere, and pinot noir, both exceedingly approachable and of great value; the Napa Angel and the Aurelio Reserve Napa Angel, both with what we can describe as Stags Leap character. The soft tannins and chocolate notes give great structure but are approachable even at a young age, though not all the fruit for this wine comes form that appellation. And finally, the prize possessions: Montes Purple Angel, Folly, and Alpha M. The Angel is carmenere in its finest expression, with a bit of petit verdot for lift. Folly is New-World shiraz at its best, but with the grace and restraint you might associate with the Rhône Valley. The M is a Bordeaux blend, predominately cabernet sauvignon, and in this expression, one of the world’s great wines.
Mr. Montes concludes this private meeting, and says, “Perhaps we should go out to the tasting room now. I would like to show people here in Canada what the wines are all about.” Agreed.
As he explains the Montes style, and the philosophy that drives it, his passion becomes evident. It lingers in the mind even after he is gone. Thankfully, there are the wines to continually remind us.
Photos: Viña Montes.