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MontGras Reserva Carmenere 2007
Best served with spicy entrées, steak and rich cheeses.
"Here's one of the standout Best Buy reds of the season out of Chile. There's welcoming grapeball and sweet berry aromas mixed with olive and tobacco. The feel is smooth and medium-deep, and the blackberry and plum flavors are just right. Barely herbal, with a long finish. Carmenere in its simple glory." 90 Points,
A winery with soul. That is MontGras and that’s the way it has been forged since the onset with one clear objective: consistently create world-class wines from Chile’s best terroirs. Brothers Hernán and Eduardo Gras, along with partner Cristián Hartwig gave life to the winery in 1993, combining state of the art technology with the talent and passion of a very special group of people. With the inspiration of Hernán, who had a long winemaking trajectory in Canada, along with the entrepreneurial vision of his brother Eduardo and Cristián's pragmatic businesses view, they made a perfect combination that has converted MontGras into one of the major wine groups of Chile, with presence in the main wine regions of the country – Colchagua, Maipo and Leyda-, along with a high participation in international markets.
Montgras has an ample diversity of soils, climates and grape varieties to produce wines of exceptional quality that represent the origin. Chile is geographically unique. Its boundaries define a long and narrow country, spanning over 4,300 km (2,672 mi) of Pacific Ocean coastline on the western edge of South America. The Andes Mountain Range, rising over 5,000 m (16,405 ft.), creates a natural barrier to the east. Between the ocean and mountains, it has an average width of 175 km (109 mi). In the north, the Atacama Desert, one of the world’s most arid climates, gives way to the fertile Central Valley. To the south is Patagonia, a region with thousands of islands, fjords and millenary glaciers reaching the Antarctic. Chile's natural boundaries have defended the country from phyloxera, the most lethal of vine plagues, making it the only country in the world not attacked with the plague of 1877 and that has pre-phyloxera clones planted on its own root stock. With its diversity of terroirs, Chile represents the energy of the New World. From Elqui to the north, to Osorno in the south, there are approximately 117,560 hectares (290,487 acres) planted with about 50 varieties of vinifera grapes, of which 75% corresponds to red and 25% to white varieties. Today, Chile is recognized as an important wine producing nation of exceptional quality.
A source of reliable, budget-friendly wines and, increasingly, more premium bottlings, Chile is one of South America’s most important wine-producing countries. Long and thin, it is largely isolated geographically, bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Andes Mountains to the east, and the Atacama desert to the north. These natural borders gave Chile the very favorable benefit of being the only country to avoid the disastrous phylloxera infestation of the late 1800s. As a result, vines can be planted on their own rootstock rather than grafted. Though viticulture was introduced to the country by conquistadors from Spain, today Chile’s wine production is most influenced by the French, who emigrated here in large numbers to escape the blight of phylloxera. These settlers have invested heavily in local vineyards and wineries.
Chile’s vineyards, planted mainly with international varieties, vary widely in climate and soil type from north to south. The Coquimbo region in the far north contains the Elqui and Limari Valleys, where minimal rainfall and intense sunlight are offset by chilly breezes from the Humboldt current to produce cool-climate Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The Aconcagua region contains the eponymous Aconcagua Valley—hot and dry and home to full-bodied red wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, and Merlot—as well as Casablanca Valley and San Antonio Valley, which focus on light-bodied Pinot Noir and cool-climate whites like Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The Central Valley is home to the Maipo, Rapel, Curicó, and Maule Valleys, which produce a wide variety of red and white wines. Maipo in particular is known for Carmenère, Chile’s unofficial signature grape. In the up-and-coming southern regions of Bio Bio and Itata, excellent cool-climate Riesling, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir are made.
Dark, full-bodied, and herbaceous with a spicy kick, Carménère has found great success in Chile, far from its birthplace of Bordeaux. Although Carménère once accompanied Malbec and Petit Verdot as a minor blending grape in Bordeaux, it is now virtually extinct there, though it has been thriving since the mid-nineteenth century in Chile. Originally mistaken for Merlot, it is now successful of its own accord and plantings continue to increase. It is bottled both on its own and as part of Bordeaux-inspired blends.
In the Glass
If not fully ripe, Carménère is often marked by a green, herbaceous character (think green bell pepper and green peppercorn), and expresses flavors of red berry and black pepper when just ripe. With additional hangtime at the end of harvest, it is reminiscent more of blackberry, blueberry, and dark plum, with rich and savory notes of chocolate, coffee, smoke, and soy sauce.
Carménère can easily overpower lighter fare, but makes a great match for a hearty steak or barbecued red meat. It can also work well with white meat when prepared with a richer sauce such as mole.
Perhaps Carménère’s herbal character can be explained in part by familial relations—due to the strange nature of grapevine breeding, Carménère is both a progeny and a great-grandchild of the similarly flavored Cabernet Franc.