Wines from Chile’s Viña MontGras, October 2014

Wines from the Chilean winery MontGras have been imported to Ontario for a few years now, mostly reds such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère and Syrah. While I had the opportunity to sample several examples of these at a recent tasting in Toronto, one of the motivations for the tasting was to introduce cool climate Sauvignon Blanc from their relatively new winery Amaral.

The original MontGras estate was founded in 1993, with vineyards situated in the heart of the Colchagua valley. It subsequently diversified by buying and developing vineyards in other climates and terroirs: Ninquén also in Colchagua, but on mountain terrain; Intrigua, an historic property purchased in 2005 and located in the Andes sector of the Maipo Valley; and finally Amaral, established in 2006, an unplanted property in the Leyda Valley.

Jaime de la CerdaThe Leyda Valley viticultural zone extends from the Pacific Ocean to the low mountains of the Coastal Range in the San Antonio Valley. Amaral itself is situated about 12 kilometers from the Pacific Ocean, on the Maipo River. Winemaker Jaime De La Cerda described the climate as both influenced by the cool breezes and cloud cover caused by the cold waters of the nearby Pacific, but also by the estate’s proximity to the Maipo River. Terroir is complex, and includes the granite and clay typical of the area due to the Coastal mountains, alluvial deposits from the river, and an unexpected idiosyncratic deposit of limestone.

The mission of Amaral is to produce cool climate wines, notably Sauvignon Blanc which is currently the largest planting (66 hectares of the current 91 planted), along with smaller amounts of Chardonnay, Gewürztraminer, Syrah and Pinot Noir. We tasted two Vintages of the Sauvignon Blanc.

The 2013 Amaral Sauvignon Blanc, Leyda Valley, came from a particularly cool year, and certainly reflects that origin. It is a very pale straw, with yellow and green highlights. The nose features intense herbaceous notes that suggest cut grass, hay, and canned asparagus, accompanied by bright citrus — lemon juice and zest, white grapefruit — with green apple and a stony minerality. The wine is dry, with high acidity that makes the wine vibrant and fresh. The grassiness fades and the lemon and green apple fruit linger into quite a long, clean and crisp finish. This sold at $13.95 and was an exceptional value.

The 2014 Amaral Sauvignon Blanc, Leyda Valley (LCBO #367292, $13.85) came from a typically cool but more normal year, with a resulting profile that Jaime thinks is more typical of what he expects to produce. The wine is very pale with green highlights. The nose is still intense, but here the green and grassy nuances nestle under the crisp mineral and fruit notes. The fruit is slightly riper, suggesting Meyer lemon as well as lemon and grapefruit, and with yellow apple mingling with green apple. The wine is dry, with very elevated acidity. The citrus and apple fruit on the palate are supplemented by hay and grass, and even a hint of spearmint. The finish is crisp. Again a terrific value. (89)

I also have notes on the two red wines I tasted.

Antu SyrahThe 2013 MontGras Reserva Carmenère, Colchagua Valley (LCBO #178624, $11.90, 13.5% alcohol), showed deep ruby, with a ruby-purple rim. The nose suggested plush and slightly sweet blueberry, blackberry and black currant fruit, and baking spice, with some expected evergreen notes (typical of the variety) emerging. The wine is dry, with balanced acidity and alcohol, and medium tannins. Good value. (87)

The 2012 Ninquén Antu Syrah, Colchagua (Vintages #675371, $17.95, 14.5% alcohol) is from the MontGras mountain property in central Colchagua. There is a hint of pepper on the nose, followed by ripe red and black currant and blackberry fruit. The wine is dry, with elevated acidity and alcohol, with slightly rough tannins. The wood (30% staves and aging in old barrels) and tannins both need time to mellow in bottle, but the wine is promising, in a style that will please many. (89)


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