Viña Montes could win a prize for the Chilean winery that has been trying hardest for longest. Aurelio Montes was the first wine producer I ever met in Chile on my first trip in 1994 when he elected to give me a sort of tour d'horizon of the industry (almost literally as I seem to remember we met up in a courtyard high above Santiago looking east towards the Andes). He has played a rather avuncular role in the emergence of the Chilean wine industry on to the world stage and to my mind established a solid track record fairly early on without perhaps hitting any of the most notable heights.
I tasted the full Montes range available during my last visit to Chile in the spring of 2002 and was rather horribly critical, finding many of what should have been their banker red wines just a bit too ripe and jammy for their own good.
I am delighted to report therefore that some sort of corner seems to have been turned with the 2001 vintage. All the 2001s I tasted were seriously well put together with nice lift, a dry finish and really appetising fruit.
While the Montes Alpha Cabernet and Merlot are very creditable, it was the Syrah - the baby Montes Folly if you will from rather less steep slopes in Montes' carefully tended Apalta vineyards near Casa Lapostolle - that particularly impressed me. Given backbone by about 10 per cent Cabernet Sauvignon, this warm-climate Syrah (very definitely not a Shiraz - no similarity to an Australian wine that I can see) is concentrated, sleek, rich and long and has real structure to it.
It is particularly well distributed in the US where, according to tasting notes in purple pages.