Bottoms Up: Montgras keeps it friendly

The popularity of Chilean wine is no secret among consumers. They catapulted onto the scene quite a number of years back with their decently made, fruit-driven, varietally labelled, vintage-dated, extremely well-priced offerings. Of course, the pricing has increased over the years, but the quality remains solid.

One producer who creates wine that is really consumer-friendly is Montgras and interestingly enough, there is a Canadian connection here. Herman Gras, President and Head Winemaker, lived for more than 20 years in Canada, and during some of that time worked for Brights Winery in Niagara. Perhaps this was the inspiration that lead him back to Chile to start Montgras in 1993. He still comes back to Canada a few times a year as his daughter lives here. In fact, the winery was designed by Sandwell Engineering that has an office in Niagara.

Recently, Winemaker, Santiago Margozzini, who oversees all winemaking at Montgras, and Marketing & Public Relations Director, Andrea Ilabaca, came to town and presented some of their wines over lunch.

2010 Amaral Sauvignon Blanc (Vintages #48025, $14.95) This zesty, lively Sauvignon Blanc from Leyda, Chile’s newest, cool viticultural area right by the sea, offers up lots of citrus, minerality, tropical fruit and bracing acidity. Squeaky clean. What a match for fresh oysters, grilled calamari, sushi or just sippin’ straight up by the pool on hot summer days.

2010 Reserva Carmenere (LCBO #178624, $12.05) From the Colchagua Valley, the general list is much richer to have this delightful Carmenere on its shelves. Sure it’s got the, cherry, olive, herb and spicy notes that this varietal usually sports but, unlike many others of its kind, it’s not vegetal in the least. Possibly due to the included 13% Cab in the wine! With soft tannins and subtle oak, it’s round and easy-drinking. Great with roast pork, grilled sausages or medium cheeses!

2009 Riserva Cabernet Sauvignon (LCBO #619205, $12.05) Toasty cassis, tobacco, leather and tar are what this medium-bodied Cab, also from the Colchagua Valley, is all about. Eight months in French and American oak adds a touch of some delicate smoky nuances. Check it out with a strip loin or a gourmet burger.

2009 Antu Ninquen Syrah (2008 is in Vintages, $17.95) From their mountain vineyard in Colchagua, comes this toasty, velvety, black fruited, spicy, slightly leathery, little number, with good acidity, as one might expect from higher elevation. Although a softer style, it still possess underlying richness. Pepper steak and nippy cheese, you’ve met your match.

2009 Antu Ninquen Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere ($17.95, direct buy) Also from the mountain vineyard in Colchagua, 30% Cabernet adds some lushness to the mix. Toasty, chocolaty, dark fruit, cedar, coffee and some sappy, tobacco notes, fill out this yummy, firm selection. Stews, casseroles and nippy cheese will love it.

2008 Intriga Cabernet Sauvignon ($21.95 (virtual offering) From the famed Maipo Valley, just south of the country’s capital, Santiago, comes this premium selection. Rich cassis, black cherry, tobacco and cigar box are all wrapped up in toasty, vanilla oak, courtesy of 23 months in French barrels. Well structured, firm and long, it comes across as more expensive than its price tag indicates. Big enough for game, but perfect with a good steak or mature, hardened cheese!

As mentioned earlier on, the key to this winery’s success is its ability to create wine that is really consumer-friendly. In a world where so many producers think ‘bigger and more aggressive is better’, here is a producer that devotes itself to moulding wines that are round, easy-drinking and infinitely enjoyable, while not forfeiting complexity, quality or food-friendliness. All at reasonable prices too! I wish more wineries would follow this philosophy. What a refreshing change.

Agent in Ontario is The Kirkwood Group 905-849-4346, www.thekirkwoodgroup.com.

Copies of the Doc’s book, Ask the Wine Doctor, are available at the BMN office for $24.99 each.

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