Maipo Cabernet Sauvignon

Having begun with the planting of European Vitis Vinifera vines by 16th-century Spanish conquistadors and missionaries, Chile’s 500-year history of fashioning wine coupled with the recent development of new growing regions continues to amaze and impress. For a long period as of the mid-1800’s, the aim was to simply produce inexpensive bulk wine; serving local markets and consumption. Up until the mid-20th century, this is equally true of most so-called old world regions in Europe during the same timeframe. Since then, though, Chile has accomplished far more than keep pace with the evolution of highly competitive, premium wine production and export, rather, its diligent vintners have forged a global leadership role. They’ve truly become world-class winemakers!

Revealingly expressed in the often difficult history of the indigenous Mapuche (‘Earth People’), is a reputation for personal courage, strong communal identity and a fierce and unconquerable spirit. The essence of these attributes carries forward, as modern Chilean vintners innovatively exploit challenging geography for agricultural cultivation while demonstrating studied concern and care for its sustainability. Framed between an endless, snaking Pacific coastline to the west and the folded slopes of Andean peaks to the east, the new regional designation, Entre Cordilleras (‘between mountains’) is a group of inland valleys that includes the well-known Colchagua and the long-established Maipo, lying south of the capital Santiago. Excelling at Malbec, Carménère, and Syrah, the larger region has also had success with classic French reds, Cab Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon wines — justifying the reference, ‘South America’s Bordeaux’.

This week’s DéClassé feature of Montgras Antu Cabernet Sauvignon 2015 is one of the Viña MontGras sub-brands for wines that head winemaker Santiago Margozzini describes as ‘exploratory’. Both light-hearted and serious, the term signals that Chilean vintners continue to play with and refine local cultivars of grapes that were imported at various points in the 19th century. Well-suited to the terroirs of their new home, and guided by local expertise, these should now be thought of as uniquely Chilean — and so it is. This bottling is ready to be uncorked, though you might challenge yourself to put more aside for another year or so – after having tried one to gauge its current measure.

boc ANTU 2014en bot

MONTGRAS ANTU CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2015
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #444703 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 17.95
14.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D

Made in Maipo Valley, Chile
By: Viña Montgras
Release Date: September 30, 2017

Tasting Note
Offering up loads of dark berry and cherry aromas and flavour, this deep Ruby red wine also has some pleasing pepper and toasty oak notes well-integrated into a soft and creamy texture. Try as a compliment to grilled food fare of all sorts: vegetable and meats, with a generous helping of Chilean cilantro salsa on the side.

Maipo Gran Reserva

Tightly framed between a 4,270km stretch of low coastal mountains along the Pacific shore, and a parallel spine of Andean foothills and peaks, most of Chile barely averages 175km in width. Not surprisingly for a long sliver of a country that crosses 38 degrees of latitude, this translates into a dynamic mix of climate and an ever-shifting geography. The bookends range from inhospitable desiccation in the northern Atacama Desert to mild Mediterranean conditions in the fertile Central Valley, to the southern third with a diverse, alpine landscape of rain-drenched lake country, foggy fjords, and windswept glaciers — giving way to tundra. Anchored around the capital of Santiago, the temperate midsection has always been a prized, agricultural and commercial heartland. Successive
Incan and Spanish incursions were thwarted until the early 1540’s when conquistador, Pedro de Valdivia, in having met more than his match, settled for a partial subjugation of the indigenous and indomitable Mapuche (‘people of the land’). In the five centuries since the so-called Spanish Conquest, Chile’s potential has attracted at least three significant waves of immigration, surprisingly including Syrians, Jordanians, and Scandinavians! Among the personal effects for those of East and West-European descent, they also brought along new varieties of Vitis Vinifera — ‘the vine that bears wine.’

In 1818, after the upheaval of the Napoleonic Wars in Spain and weakening of colonial rule, Chilean nationalists united and gained their independence. This birthing of modern Chile also coincided with an influx of German, Swiss, Austrian, and Alsatian immigrants whose descendants have become known as Germano-chilenos. Presumably, Christian Lanz was among the entrepreneurial group, as was his intrepid bride, Carmen. In 1850 he founded one of Chile’s first commercial wineries and astutely named it after his wife. After a long business tradition of winemaking that narrowly aimed to satisfy the volume demands of local consumption, the 1980’s mark a departure for Viña Carmen, and
many other long-established wineries, to turn their attention toward the promise of a burgeoning export market. For Carmen, the upscaling prompted an ambitious expansion of their vineyards into the premier growing regions of the Casablanca, Leyda, Colchagua, Apalta, and Maipo valleys. For this week’s feature of Carmen Gran Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon 2012, the source is the Alto Maipo; a high altitude terroir of alluvial terraces in the eastern end of the valley. With a long season of hot daytime followed by nighttime cooling, the Cabernet SauvignonPetit Verdot, and Carmenere vines develop fully ripe fruit while maintaining a balance of vibrant acidity – a combination that has become an exciting hallmark of contemporary Chilean wine-making.

Apart from Spain, Portugal, and Italy, where the wine aging criteria of Reserva and Gran Reserva are definitively regulated and standardized, there remain many regions where these terms are loosely interpreted. In other words, they may simply be marketing tools that reveal little about the finishing process of the wine in advance of its release. In Chile these terms are categorized as ‘quality mentions,’ so it is left entirely to the vintner’s discretion to justify the description. Nonetheless, for the reputable wineries, there is an adherence to the principle that a bottle bearing these designations is of a higher quality. Until this becomes better codified in South and North America, consumers will have to rely on other indicators; from reliable sources such as ‘Wine Spectator’ assigning this 2012 bottling as 32nd in their ‘Top 100’ listing; ‘Wine & Spirits’ magazine naming Viña
Carmen the ’Top Winery of the Year’ four times, and — ‘DéClassé’ recommends this as ‘outstanding value for well-crafted wine at a modest $16.95 price-point.’

carmen-gran-reserva

CARMEN GRAN RESERVA CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2012
LCBO Product #358309 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 16.95
14% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in Chile
By: Viña Carmen
Release Date: April 15, 2015

Tasting Note
This wine has sufficient depth of garnet-red colouring to match the expectation of a ‘Reserve’ bottling, e.g. a minimum of 12 months spent in oak and another year in bottle. What exceeds expectation is that the vintner has managed to maintain bright cherry, raspberry, and plum aroma and flavours while coaxing spice and chocolate from the soft oak. Certainly, this offering will pair with the traditional fare associated to Bordeaux-esq reds, however, Carmen’s ‘Gran Reserva’ is ready to be uncorked and enjoyed on its own!

Washington Cabernet Sauvignon

Long overshadowed by California’s North Coast regions of Sonoma and Napa, which are arguably America’s most established and prodigious wine zones, the Pacific Northwest has steadily carved out a unique winemaking reputation that’s really beginning to shine. With many mature vineyards now in the 40-year range, the coastal and inland terroirs of Oregon and Washington states are proving to be capable producers of robust blends built with Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Syrah, as well as, cool-climate, varietal white wines such as Sauvignon Blanc, Pinot Gris and Gewürztraminer. Somewhere in the middle of this unusual winemaking polarity lies a less-surprising success with Cabernet Franc, Riesling, and lighter-weight versions of Chardonnay. Though the expansive range of these varieties and wine styles do somewhat defy the conventional wisdom about what should be possible within a single growing region, this is apparently what intrepid
Washingtonians do well: side-step generalized preconception while continuing to build on the economic foundation of forestry and shipping established in the 19th-century, which then diversified into commercially-scaled agriculture in the 20th-century; becoming the USA’s foremost producer of apples, along with major crops of cherries, raspberries, pears, wheat, hops, and now – grapevines!

Aka the ‘Evergreen State,’ Washington might soon consider revising its motto due to a veritable explosion of winemaking that began as a trickle in the 1960’s and then started a meteoric rise in the 1980’s. At the outset, there were fewer than 30 wineries; as of 2016, there are over 900 and growing at a rate of 3 new winemaking enterprises per month! To satisfy the burgeoning demand, winemakers are drawing fruit from 21,500 hectares of vineyard; both from their own plots and those tended to by 350 independent growers; located mainly in the coastal zone of the Willamette Valley and the high-desert hillsides of the Columbia Valley. Despite the ‘desert’ descriptor, most of the vine stock is
planted on the same 44 thru 47th latitudes as France’s Bordeaux, Northern Rhône, and Burgundy regions and so Washington’s adapted cultivars of Vitis vinifera grapes benefit from similar dynamics in the growing cycles of their distant, European ancestors.

As for this week’s featured wine and vintner, Hogue Cabernet Sauvignon 2014, the defining difference in their various Columbia Valley plots is the prevailing dry climate. Lying in the rain shadow of the Olympic and Cascade Mountain ranges, the hot days promote plumping of the grapes and sugar content, alternating with cool nights that maintain bright acidity levels. As an introductory example of the fruity and fresh wines that these conditions yield, this deft blend of 78% Cabernet Sauvignon, 14% Merlot, 5% Syrah, small splashes of Petit Verdot and Malbec, and cooperative weather during 2014 – all make for a pleasing bottling that defies a $14.95 price tag, and possibly prompting a few of those previously mentioned California vintners to blush with envy!

hogue-cab-sauvignon

HOGUE CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2014
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #462960 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 14.95
13.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in Washington, USA
By: Hogue Cellars
Release Date: October 15, 2016

Tasting Note
This is an uncomplicated, easy-drinking Bordeaux-style red that exceeds its pedigree and expectation at this price-point. An abundance of cherry, raspberry and plum aromas and flavours are wrapped around the pleasing oak, making it a natural complement to food fare such as roasted pork tenderloin in a Madeira sauce, marinated flank steak with sautéed mushrooms or braised short ribs and polenta with crispy onions.

Maipo Cab Sauvignon

Having begun with the planting of European Vitis Vinifera vines by 16th-century Spanish conquistadors and missionaries, Chile’s 500-year history of fashioning wine coupled with the recent development of new growing regions continues to amaze and impress. For a period as of the mid-1800’s, the aim was to simply produce inexpensive bulk wine; to serve local markets and consumption. This is equally true of most so-called old world regions in Europe during the same time; right up until the mid-20th century. Since then, though, Chile has accomplished far more than keep pace with the evolution of highly competitive, premium wine production and export; rather, its diligent vintners have forged a leadership role, globally. They’ve truly become world-class winemakers!

montgras-vineyard

Revealingly expressed in the often difficult history of the indigenous Mapuche (‘Earth People’), is a reputation for personal courage, strong communal identity and a fierce and unconquerable spirit. The essence of these attributes carries forward, as modern Chilean vintners innovatively exploit challenging geography for agricultural cultivation, while demonstrating studied concern and care for its sustainability. Framed between an endless, snaking Pacific coastline to the west and the folded slopes of Andean peaks to the east, the new regional designation, Entre Cordilleras (‘between mountains’) is a group of inland valleys that includes the well-known Colchagua and the long-established Maipo, lying south of the capital Santiago. Excelling at Malbec, Carménère, and Syrah, the larger region has also had success with classic French reds, Cab Franc, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon wines — justifying the reference, ‘South America’s Bordeaux’.

This week’s DéClassé feature of Montgras Antu Cabernet Sauvignon 2013 is one of the Viña MontGras sub-brands for wines that head winemaker Santiago Margozzini describes as ‘exploratory’. Both light-hearted and serious, the term signals that Chilean vintners continue to play with and refine local cultivars of grapes that were imported at various points in the 19th century. Well-suited to the terroirs of their new home, and guided by local expertise, these should now be thought of as uniquely Chilean — and so it is. This bottling is ready to be uncorked, though you might challenge yourself to put more aside for another year or so – after having tried one; outdoors at an upscale BBQ.

boc ANTU 2014en bot

MONTGRAS ANTU CABERNET SAUVIGNON 2013
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #444703 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 17.95
14.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in Maipo Valley, Chile
By: Viña Montgras
Release Date: May 28, 2016

Tasting Note
Offering up loads of dark berry and cherry aromas and flavour, this deeply Ruby red wine also has some pleasing pepper and toasty oak notes well-integrated into a soft and creamy texture. Try this as a compliment to grilled food fare of all sorts: vegetable and meats; with a generous helping of Chilean cilantro salsa.

Cab Sauvignon Alert

Founded in the 1870’s, Bodegas Torres has over the course of 140 years or
so, been the major driving force in putting Spain’s now famous Penedès region
on the international wine-making map. Numerous impediments along the way,
including the partial destruction of the winery during the civil war (1936-39),
have inspired and motivated the evolution of this vintner’s practices away from
simply being a bulk wine supplier, to graduating and thriving in the status as a
renowned bottler of vintage offerings in 50 different styles – though many of
these are only produced in appropriately successful harvest years.

The Torres Family has been based in the town of Vilafranca del Penedès since
its inception as a company and has progressively expanded its holdings to over
1,700 hectares of vineyards at 3 levels of successively higher elevation: coastal
central and high. The harvested fruit is vinified, then allowed to slowly mature in
more than 2O, OOO barrels, stored in stacks along an impressive 2 kilometers
of underground galleries.

Wine has been cultivated on the Mediterranean shores of the Iberian Peninsula
since the Phoenician period, though for this week’s Reserva grade red, we have
Miguel A. Torres to thank for the vision of introducing Cabernet Sauvignon to
Penedès during the 1960’s and 70’s; prior to which only local, obscure white
wine varieties were the norm. Along with promotion of the French ‘Emperor of
red varieties’, additional innovation came in the choice of also using indigenous
Tempranillo grapes as a blending partner, best known in Catalonian vineyards
southwest of Barcelona as Ull de Llebre (hare’s eye).

A perennial listing in the LCBO’s Vintages Essentials catalogue, this remarkable
value is available year-round, though for the next several weeks – it’s sale-priced.
It’s an opportune time to reevaluate the quality of Spanish wine and this bottle
would be the ideal starting point!

Gran Coronas

TORRES GRAN CORONAS CABERNET SAUVIGNON RESERVA (V)
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #36483 | 750 mL bottle
13.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D
Limited Time Offer
Was: $ 19.95
Now: $ 17.95
Until Mar. 29, 2015

Made in: Penedès, Spain
By: Miguel Torres S.A.
Release Date: Mar. 7, 2015

Tasting Note
With a deep red hue, this dense and silky-rich red imparts aroma and flavours
of cherry, plum, red current and characteristic coffee, vanilla bean and leather
notes – that tend to develop with a slightly extended period of barrel ageing. It’s
perfect with charcuterie, cheeses, pasta with lemon cream sauce, vegetarian
paella, as well as, filet mignon or grilled lamb.

Cab Sauvignon Reserva Alert

Founded in the 1870’s, Bodegas Torres has over the course of 140 years or
so, been the major driving force in putting Spain’s now-famous Penedès region
on the international wine-making map. Numerous impediments along the way,
including the partial destruction of the winery during the civil war (1936-39),
have inspired and motivated the evolution of this vintner’s practices away from
simply being a bulk wine supplier to now thriving in the current status as a
renowned bottler of vintage offerings in 50 different styles – though many of
these will only be produced in appropriately good harvest years.

The Torres Family has been based in the town of Vilafranca del Penedès since
its inception as a company and has progressively expanded its holdings to over
1,700 hectares of vineyard growing at 3 levels of successively higher elevation:
coastal, central and high. The harvested fruit is vinefied and allowed to slowly
mature in the more than 2O,OOO barrels that are stored in stacks along an
impressive 2 kilometers of underground galleries!

Wine has been cultivated on the Mediterranean shores of the Iberian Peninsula
since the Phoenician period, though for this week’s benchmark, Reserva grade
red, we have Miguel A. Torres to thank for the contemporary vision of introducing
Cabernet Sauvignon to Penedès during the 1960’s and 70’s; a time when only
local, obscure white wine varieties were the norm. Along with promotion of the
French ‘emperor of red varieties’, an additional innovation came in the choice of
using indigenous Tempranillo grapes as a blending partner, better-known in the
Catalonian vineyards southwest of Barcelona as Ull de Llebre (hare’s eye).

A perennial listing in the LCBO’s Vintages Essentials catalogue, this remarkable
value is available year-round, though for the next week or so, it’s sale-priced so
as to make way for the upcoming vintage; an opportune time to reevaluate the
quality of Spanish wine and this bottle would be the ideal starting point!

Gran Coronas

TORRES GRAN CORONAS CABERNET SAUVIGNON RESERVA (V)
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #36483 | 750 mL bottle
13.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: D
Limited Time Offer
Was: $ 19.00
Now: $ 18.00
Until Apr 27, 2014

Made in: Penedès, Spain
By: Miguel Torres S.A.,
Release Date: Apr 18, 2013

Tasting Note
With a deep red hue, this dense and silky-rich red imparts aroma and flavours
of cherry, plum, red current and characteristic coffee, vanilla bean and leather
notes – that tend to arise from its slightly extended period of barrel ageing. It’s
perfect with charcuterie, cheeses, pasta with lemon cream sauce, vegetarian
paella, as well as, filet mignon, roast chicken, grilled lamb.

Cab Sauvignon Alert

Drawing on fruit harvested from vines originating as French root-stock, coupled
with the relative softness imparted by a collection of 400 French oak barriques,
this neo-Bordeaux blended red of Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cab Franc
nonetheless does impart the unique character of Bulgaria’s verdant vineyards.
Here in the Danube Plain wine growing region west of Sofia, in the tiny village of
Nisovo with its diminutive population of 120, the impressive underground cellar
of this vintner vies for attention only with a nearby rock monastery and 70 large
stone crosses of the reputed Templar graves mixed into the Roman cemetery.

It’s a historic and colourful context for what quizzically remains undiscovered,
yet very rich and prolific wine country. This is partially explained by the reality
that Bulgaria, being a key component of the former Soviet Union, directed most
of its premium exports to Russia and only now is gaining an improved reputation
in western markets for offerings other than the unfortunate flood of inexpensive
and unremarkable bulk wine that it released in the 1980’s. Fortunately for us,
this changing attitude of quality vs. quantity consciousness by Bulgarian vintners
continues to translate into modest price-points for their much more exceptional
wines – a case in point is the week’s DéClassé featured, Reserve Grade offering.

Having mostly been planted in the 1960’s to replace less-remarkable or archaic
varieties, these vineyards, blessed with some of the geographic benefits of being
situated on the same latitude as Bordeaux and Tuscany – are now fully mature.
Coupled with updated wine-making techniques that includes planned reduction in
yields in favour of more-concentrated fruit, the revitalized and dynamic wineries
of ‘Thrace’ are now creating modern wines that fully deserve the attention, the
appreciation and the votes of confidence by discerning buyers like you!

Horse Valley

HORSE VALLEY SINGLE VINEYARD RESERVE RED 2011
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #363929 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 16.95
13.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in: Danubian Plain, Bulgaria
By: Wine Union JSC
Release Date: Feb 15, 2014

Tasting Note
This is a medium-bodied, smooth and fulfilling red with some classic flavour and
aroma notes of cherry, vanilla and spice. Try serving with heartier food fare such
as roasts, game, ratatouille and gnocchi with meat sauces.