EASTON, Md, September 19, 2011 — What makes a great wine? According to Santiago Margozzini winemaker at MontGras winery in Chile, it’s charm and being true to your origins. For him this means creating a wine that reflects the land, climate and vines of Chile not one that mimics popular wines from France or California. He has learned this hard lesson over the last 17 years with some help from his friend and consulting Sonoma based winemaker Paul Hobbs.
Margozzini joined MontGras in 1999 after experience at several other Chilean wineries including Santa Ema and Santa Rita. MontGras itself was only founded nine years before his arrival in 1990. Brothers Hernán and Eduardo Gras along with their partner Christián Hartwig made the mission of MontGras to make quality wines that showcased the unique character of their land.
The majority of MontGras’ vineyards are in the Colchagua Valley which is known for producing amazing red wines from familiar grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon, as well as Chile’s specialty Carmenère. Carmenère, a grape whose origins are in Bordeaux, had been mistaken for many years as Merlot. Later DNA testing uncovered that half of what was thought to be Merlot was really Carmenère and when bottled on its own is pretty delicious.
MontGras was in fact the first Chilean winery to bottle and label a Carmenère. Now Santiago and winemakers like him at other wineries are betting that its popularity in the US will continue its rise. Carmenère is the focal point of his red wine production along with some red blends that include Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Malbec. Carmenère has a lot of the same qualities drinker love about Merlot—ample fruit, softer tannins but more spice and personality. The MontGras Reserva Carmenère is a great value at $12 with its bright aromas of black fruit, a touch of toasty oak with a spicy finish.
Along with the affordable reds in the Reserva line, MontGras has also launched a Cuvee wine that will be their top of the line called Akel which is 90% Carmenère and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and retails for $55. More of a statement piece in their lineup, this wine is meant to show how serious a Carmenère can get. Lower yields, canopy management and extra loving care result in a more concentrated red that spends over 16 months in oak barrels.
MontGras has been venturing out of the Colchagua to find land better suited for white wines in the San Antonio Valley, which is producing some stunning Sauvignon Blancs. The Chilean Sauvignon Blancs have more intensity than their French counterparts but a bit leaner than New Zealand. MontGras’ Sauvignon Blanc, also a value at $12, has aromas of citrus, passion fruit and pineapple with crisp food-friendly acidity.
Actually, an experience with white wine is what taught Santiago that being true to yourself and your place wins the wine war. While working alongside Paul Hobbs he asked to taste his Chardonnay side by side with Paul’s. As they and some others tasted both wines he noticed people preferred the wine from Hobbs. Later he asked Paul why he thought that was and told Santiago it was because his wine has charm.
Since then Santiago has made it his mission to find the charm that only Chile can create. They may not taste exactly like wines from any other place and that’s the point.
The wines of MontGras are not only impressive but are also a great value. Try out their signature varietals, Sauvignon Blanc and Carmenère, to discover the unique personality of this winery and Chile.
Laurie Forster, The Wine Coach®, is a wine educator and author of the award-winning book “The Sipping Point: A Crash Course in Wine.” Her specialty is delivering wine edu-tainment for corporate events, group tastings and team-building seminars. She is also a sought after guest expert on radio shows across the country, including Martha Stewart Radio. You can reach her on twitter @thewinecoach or on Facebook at www.facebook.com/winecoach.
Read more of Laurie’s work at The Sipping Point in the Communities at the Washington Times.
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