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!

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.

Limarí Syrah Especial

Distinctively known to climatologists as the driest, non-polar geography on Earth, the Atacama Desert is desolate and desiccated to such extremes that it’s biologically sterile, with some zones having never recorded any measurable rainfall–ever. Here in the northern third of Chile, to an unpractised outside eye, the cultivating of fruit at the outer fringe of an expanding desertification seems a futile exercise? Undaunted, the innovative and resourceful Chileans are reapplying their ancient knowledge while employing modern and sustainable techniques such as drip irrigation–to excel in the face of these challenges. Also blessed with a relatively pest-free environment, they’re naturally using organic and biodynamic farming practices. Healthier and economical in terms of production costs, the sum of this viticultural intelligence is discernibly imparting a fresh character into their premium wines. It also demonstrates Chile’s largely
unrivaled and fruitful export of new-age-winemaking expertise!

Just southwest of this hostile territory, the Limarí Valley stretches east to west from the Andean foothills across to the Pacific shore. Open at the seaward end, the valley acts as a funnel for the low-lying, billowing coastal fog named Garúa or Camanchaca by the indigenous Aymara and Atacama Indians. In having passed on the long understood benefits of this climate dynamic, modern descendants continue to explore and exploit its magical properties both as air-borne irrigation and air conditioning. Softly blanketing the vine stock with precious moisture each morning, the fog then gives way to an equally significant cooling breeze later in the day; providing some critical respite in an otherwise hot, semi-arid landscape.

vina-tabali-vineyard

The growing of vines is not new to Limarí agriculture as some of these vineyards were established in the mid-16th century; roughly corresponding with the arrival of Spanish Conquistadors. In more recent ages, the majority of plantings here are destined to produce table grapes or lesser grades of wine grape suitable for the distilling of Chile’s trademark brandy, Pisco, also generically referred to as Aguardiente (firewater). A quarter century or so on from the introduction in the 1990’s of Noble varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay, Pinot Noir and Syrah, this maturing vine stock coupled with the savvy of winemakers like the heralded Felipe Müller is now yielding world-class, varietal wine in a range of accessible price points.

For this DéClassé recommended, limited-edition, Viña Tabalí Reserva Especial Syrah 2012, the fruit is sourced from an alluvial terrace (former seabed) of clay, chalk and limestone lying adjacent to the Limarí River; also acting as a conduit for mineral-rich meltwater that flows downslope from the Andes Mountains. This substantial wine has an appealing balance of tannin structure and intriguing softness; helped by a year maturing in a combination of new and second-use, French oak barrels (and now, an added year in bottle). This will continue to cellar for some time, but if you prefer your red wine with a touch of acidic brightness still present in the fruit—then start drinking!

Tabali

TABALI RESERVA ESPECIAL SYRAH 2012
VINTAGES – LCBO Product #213538 | 750 mL bottle
Price $ 17.95
14.5% Alcohol/Vol.
Sugar Content Descriptor: XD

Made in Limari Valley, Chile
By: Viña Tabalí
Release Date: April 30, 2016

Tasting Note
This fairly rounded Syrah gives off dark fruit aromas, juicy cherry and black plum flavours with the expected peppery spice and bitter chocolate notes that define the grape. Try with roasted lamb, braised short rib and leeks, grilled steak with Chilean salsa or bacon-wrapped chicken tornadoes and peppercorn sauce.