MontGras Reserva Carmenere 2011
Best served with spicy entrées, steak, pork sliders, and hard cheeses.
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.
One of South America’s most important wine-producing countries, Chile is a reliable source of both budget-friendly wines and premium bottlings. Spanish settlers, Juan Jufre and Diego Garcia de Cáceres, most likely brought Vitis vinifera (Europe’s wine producing vine species) to the Central Valley of Chile some time in the 1550s. But Chile’s modern wine industry is largely the result of heavy investment from the 1990s.
Long and narrow, Chile is geographically isolated, bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Andes Mountains to the east and the Atacama desert to the north. These natural borders allowed Chile to avoid the disastrous phylloxera infestation in the late 1800s and as a result, vines are often planted on their own rootstock rather than grafted (as is the case in much of the wine producing world).
Chile’s vineyards 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. While historically focused solely on Pisco production, today this area finds success with 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 Pinot Noir, 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 make excellent Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Dark, full-bodied and herbaceous with a spicy kick, Carménère found great success with its move to Chile in the mid-nineteenth century. Far from its birthplace of Bordeaux, Carménère once accompanied Malbec and Petit Verdot as a minor blending grape there. But the variety went a bit undercover, impressing wine lovers until 1994 when many plantings previously thought to be Merlot, were profiled as Carménère. Regardless of what vine variety it actually was, these have proven successful and plantings continue to increase.
In the Glass
Carménère can express a bit of herbaceous character or black pepper but in warm climates or with additional hangtime before harvest, it makes wines reminiscent of blackberry, blueberry and dark plum, with rich and savory notes of chocolate, coffee, smoke and soy sauce.
Carménère makes a great match for a hearty steak or barbecued red meat. It can also work well with white meat when prepared with a mole sauce or spice rub.
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.