Giving South America a Second Look: Montes & Kaiken Wines
Moral of the Story: Know Your Preference, but Re-examine Your Bias Regularly.
Protocol Wine Studio, Montes Wines, Kaiken Wines and the Montes Family
I don’t like Argentine or Chilean wines. For Argentina: too ripe & extracted, too oaky. For Chile: hard to tell what the general style is, as it seems to be all over the map.
#Winestudio is a twitter chat series with a monthly theme hosted by the good folks at Protocol Wine Studio. Often the themes involve specific wineries and allow a chance to sample the wines through the generosity of the wineries. The July series involved the Montes family, their vineyards and winery in Chile expanded with their newer Kaiken Wines in Argentina with a second generation of their family. Even though I enjoy the discussions on #WineStudio, I decided to sit this one out.
When Tina sent a message that they had a larger allocation than usual and spots were still available to sample & evaluate the wines. I couldn’t resist, time to revisit my prior views on South American wines.
Montes Wines of Chile and Aurelio Montes Sr.
Aurelio Montes Sr. and several partners joined together in 1987 to bring their joint vision to life, bringing a new standard for high quality wines from Chile. They strive to continually improve the quality of their wines, including moving to hillside vineyard sites, and more recently to include such sustainable techniques as integrated pest management and reduced irrigation. For a > 1 million case production winery, this is a huge effort! They dedicate a whole section of their website to their sustainability efforts, clearly their efforts go beyond sustainability for some sticker on the wine bottle, they really care.
We enjoyed chatting with Aurelio Montes Sr. about their efforts pioneering high quality Chilean wines for the world market. How did they taste?
Montes Spring Harvest Sauvignon Blanc 2015 (winery sample)
Eye: Bright and clear, just barely showing any color.
Nose: Gooseberries and grapefruit, blind, I would peg it as New Zealand Sauvignon Blanc.
Mouth: Strong fruit but avoids sweetness. Nice for the New Zealand style.
The Montes Wines website describes this wine as “sustainably dry farmed”. That is to say, not strictly dry farmed as in no irrigation whatsoever. Like many new world vineyard regions, there isn’t sufficient rainfall every year to allow grapevines to grow without any supplemental irrigation. Montes monitors the natural rainfall, and only irrigates when absolutely necessary, allowing the vines to be stressed and to concentrate their fruit.
Montes Alpha Carménère 2012 (winery sample)
Eye: Dark opaque center with a deep purple edge.
Nose: Very dark fruit, figs & raisins.
Mouth: Rich & ripe. Thankfully not overly oaked, enjoyed especially w/ pesto topped new potatoes with onions & mushrooms from the grill on day 1 and steak on day 2!
Is this my kind of wine? I don’t usually pick wines made in an international style, but I have lots of friends who do. What do I serve when they come for dinner, always a problem. This wine walks that line where both my guests and I would be happy to enjoy dinner with a bottle of Montes Alpha Carménère on the table.
Kaiken Wines – Argentina
Weeks 3 & 4 of the Winestudio discussion were focused on Kaiken Wines, another Montes family project, this time across the mountains in Argentina. After visiting Argentina in 2001, Kaiken wines was established. More recently, Aurelio Montes Jr. took over leadership of the Kaiken operation, moving to Argentina full time.
Kaiken Ultra Malbec 2012 (winery sample)
Eye: Inky dark opaque center to a purple edge. Opaque almost out to the edge.
Nose: Ripe, very dark fruit. Intense but not stewed. A little black pepper, chocolate & a little leather.
Mouth: Rich, deep dark fruit with plenty of tannins. Depth from oak, but not overtly vanilla toned, thank you!
Overall, a nice wine in that riper burly style, but not overdone. A wine I could serve to “New World” palate friends and still enjoy myself.
I planned a dinner with the Ultra Malbec not knowing exactly what to expect from the wine. I usually think of Argentine Malbecs as being very fruity and sometimes a bit sweet. I was thinking a barbecue rub coated lamb chop would be a nice pairing. I missed on two counts: #1 – the BBQ rub was spicier than anticipated, and #2 the wine was deep and fruit filled, but presented as quite dry. Initially a pretty bad mismatch, everything came into balance once I removed most of the too-spicy rub from the chops. Oops!
Kaiken Terroir Series Torrontes 2015 (winery sample)
Eye: Clear, medium straw yellow to a clear edge
Nose: Floral, citrus & grapefruit rind
Mouth: Medium body, with excellent almost tart acidity. Grapefruit rind dominates the flavor with just a bit of bitterness (hence the rind thought). Went very well w/ kale salad with summer sausage and local fresh goat feta.
We also tried the Torrontes with a roasted tomato bruschetta on day two; another winner!
So what did I think after re-examining my views on South American wines? All the wines were very well executed and made in the “international style” of big bold flavors, so I found them true to what they aim to be.
I found the red wines to both successfully present a big, bold style without being too jammy, sweet, or over-oaked; bravo! While not right for every meal, I have some new wines that can appeal to a wide audience. The whites were fresh and dry, and again, well representative of the new world “international style”. The big winner of the group for me was the Kaiken Torrontes. I loved the bright, crisp flavor with just a hint of bitterness.
My thanks to Protocol Wine Studio, Vina Montes and Kaiken Wines for providing the wines and great conversation and allowing me to re-examine my views on South American Wines. All opinions expressed are my own.