Every new movement has its leader, and when it comes to high-quality Chilean wine, that leader is Montes.
From the moment four partners joined together to create Montes in 1988, their goal was to make premium quality wine. And in fact, in 1996, Montes became the first winery in Chile to produce an ultra-premium wine, Alpha “M,” setting a new standard of excellence for their country.
As Montes’ flagship wine, Alpha “M” is a blend of 80 percent Cabernet Sauvignon and 20 percent of other Bordeaux varietals, all grapes grown in Apalta Valley, one of Chile’s finest vineyard sites. Since 1999 the 20 percent addition has included 10 percent Cabernet Franc, 5 percent Merlot and 5 percent Petit Verdot.
Recently, Aurelio Montes, winemaker and one of the company’s founders, presented a retrospective of Alpha “M.” The first vintage, 1996, Mr. Montes said, was a rather delicate wine; we did not taste it. Instead, we began with the 1997, a silky, pleasantly aging wine.
It was the 1999, the first to have Petit Verdot in its blend, that showed the complete wine — a meatier body with spice and cassis and a bit of dark chocolate in its aroma.
Then on to the vintages that are more likely to be found in wine shops. The 2000, the result of a cool season, displayed a ripe, fruity taste. The low grape yields of 2001 produced a round wine with an aroma of berries, mint and fruit.
Because Montes makes Alpha “M” only if the quality of the grapes is high, none was made in 2002.
Ah, but the 2003 made up for that loss. Powerful, yet elegant with an intense aroma of ripe berries, mint and a touch of espresso, it left a lovely, lingering aftertaste.
The year 2004 was not Chile’s best vintage, but Alpha “M,” albeit lighter and quieter than usual, showed an aroma reminiscent of fig and coffee, and harmony between its fruit and oak. And we have much to look forward to in the 2005. Still young, the 2005 is vibrant with great fruit and a velvety texture.
Expect to pay about $65 to $90 for Montes Alpha “M.” Expensive, yes, but quality is never cheap.
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