Tuesday, September 6, 2016

South American Wines Deliver On Taste And Value

South American wines are delivering robust flavors resulting from the latest winemaking techniques paired with a concern for the environment. We sampled a couple of signature wines from Argentina and Chile.

Less Labor on Labor Day

The Labor Day weekend traditionally marks the end of summer. The long weekend is a time for cooking out and fun before starting the grind through the cooler days of fall.

We had family in from out of town and invited our neighbors over for some food and backyard sporting events. To save the wear and tear on the cooks, the Green Dragon bought some New York Strip Steaks marinated in garlic butter from the House of Meats. We had corn on the cob, beet salad with goat cheese, watermelon, baked potatoes and garlic bread.

For the wine, I selected the Montes Alpha 2013 Carmenère. Montes is a pioneer in quality wine from Chile. Their Montes Alpha Cabernet Sauvignon raised the bar for other winemakers in the country. Their Purple Angel “super” Carmenère is one of our favorite all-time wines.

The Montes Alpha Carmenère is a wine that could age for up to 10 years, or is ready to open now. My New York Strips were sliced to about a half-inch thick, meaning they would cook in no time on my charcoal grill. I was in no mood to wait for a wine to age!

Dry Farming Techniques

This wine comes from the Colchagua Valley vineyards and is grown with dry farming techniques. No irrigation is used unless it is determined that Mother Nature doesn’t provide the minimum rain the vines need. This decreases the water use by 65%, which is nice for the environment and it also produces riper fruit.

Carmenère is considered the signature red grape of Chile. The Montes Alpha certainly shows why. Deep garnet in the glass, this has an explosion of concentrated flavors. It is jammed with red and black fruit flavors. Ripe cherries and spices blend with toasted oak flavor notes.

Enjoyment flows easily from this bottle and it married well with my steak from the grill. It is recommended that this wine be decanted for 30 minutes to allow the aromatics to open up.

The Montes Alpha has 10% Cabernet Sauvignon and 55% of the wine was aged for 12 months in French oak. This is enough to provide structure, but not dominate.

Terroir of Argentina

Our next signature grape was from Kaiken Premium Wines of Argentina. Kaiken has been expanding its experimental biodynamic program and expects to be fully biodynamic by 2020. Biodynamics combines elements of organic, sustainable farming with some almost mystical components.

Kaiken was founded by Aurelio Montes, the founder of Viña Montes. During a recent blind tasting party, we popped open a bottle of the Kaiken Terroir Series 2015 Torrontés.

Torrontés Rocks

While Malbec gets the headlines for red Argentine wine, Torrontés is rockin’ the white wine sphere. These grapes are handpicked from vineyards 5,200 feet above sea level. The altitude keeps the climate cool and allows the grapes to retain their acidity.

I tasted this blind with three other whites. I zeroed in on this wine like a hawk. A beautiful green-gold in the glass, it is fresh with juicy citrus and grapefruit flavors. The acidity was refreshing without having a sharp bite.

The Kaiken Torrontés comes from Argentina’s Salta region. Salta is one of the top wine regions in Argentina and that country’s northernmost wine producing area. This would pair very well with lobster or perhaps crab cakes. We had an assortment of appetizers, and there wasn’t a bad match in the lot.

One of the most tasty features of these wines is the price. The Montes Alpha Carmenère is $25 SRP and the Kaiken Torrontés retails for only $17. Those prices are highly sustainable for the wallet.

Full Disclosure: These wines were received as marketing samples.

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