Chile is celebrating the 200th. Anniversary of its independence and the heroics of Irish soldier of fortune Bernardo O’Higgins, the country’s ‘Liberator’.
It is no surprise therefore that this month has seen the arrival here of several leading Chilean winemakers, the most recent being the renowned Aurelio Montes (pictured here with Frank Corr) who conducted a tasting of his wines which are now distributed here by Barry Fitzwilliam.
Aurelio Montes established his own winery with Douglas Murray in 1987 and they were joined in the following year by Alfredo Vidaurre and Pedro Grand. Unlike most Chilean winerieis at the time, they focused on producing quality wines for export and succeeded to the extent that Montes wines now sell in 110 countries. ‘We are the fourth largest wine exporter in Chile’, Aurelio said. The company has also expanded into Argentina and has recently bought two small properties in California.
‘We have studied terroir in Chile and seek to find the best locations for specific grapes. We have just discovered a new valley near the coast in which we will have an exclusive opportunity to develop new vineyards and to produce new wines.', he told us. Montes, he says, tries to ‘over-deliver’ on quality, particularly in wines around the €10 price point.
Asked about the relatively high alcohol content of his wines Aurelio said that they try to achieve the right balance. ‘It is simply too expensive to make low alcohol wine sin Chile, but there is a lot more to a good wine than the alcohol level.’
‘Of course you could also make a wine and wait for ten years’, he quipped.
He also said that the quality of Chilean merlot is improving. ‘We are ripping out a lot of merlot vines and growing only in the most favourable terroirs.’. Similarly, he said, ‘it took ten years to discover where it is best to grow Carmenere.’
Montes, he said, makes wines for the consumer and tries to match consumer tastes. ‘Journalists and wine experts want to go back to the French style, but the consumer goes the other way. We want to go with the market.’
He does lean towards France however by opting for syrah rather than shiraz on his labels. ‘Australia has flooded the market with shiraz- so I am glad to have syrah’.
To-day Montes makes its wines in a futuristic winery designed according to Feng Shui principles. It is accessed by crossing a moat and inside the Montes Angel stands watch as grapes are fed by gravity down through the levels of the winery as water, light and space merge in tranquil harmony.
The Dublin tasting at the Dylan Hotel included the Classic Reserva Sauvignon Blanc 2009 (up to €10.99 rrp), Alpha Chardonnay from the Casablanca Valley which is available around €15.99 and , according to Michael Barry represents ‘the best quality to value on the market.’, a Merlot (€11.99) and Alpha Caberent Sauvignon, which was balanced and appealing as was the 2006 Syrah with its decidedly Old World style. The tasting concluded with the ‘Alpha M’ (mostly cabernet sauvignon) selling at a whopping €50 and Montes iconic ‘Purple Angel’ , one of the finest carmeneres produced in Chile to-day.