Chicas y chicos, did you know that Chile’s national treasure, the great poet Pablo Neruda, waxed rhapsodic about Chile’s other great national treasure, wine? To set the mood for today’s post on Chilean vino, here’s an excerpt from his aptly named poem, Ode to Wine:
ODA AL VINO
Amo sobre una mesa,
cuando se habla,
la luz de una botella
de inteligente vino.
Que lo beban,
que recuerden en cada
gota de oro
o copa de topacio
o cuchara de púrpura
que trabajó el otoño
hasta llenar de vino las vasijas
y aprenda el hombre oscuro,
en el ceremonial de su negocio,
a recordar la tierra y sus deberes,
a propagar el cántico del fruto.
I like on the table,
when we’re speaking,
the light of a bottle
of intelligent wine.
and remember in every
drop of gold,
in every topaz glass,
in every purple ladle,
that autumn labored
to fill the vessel with wine;
and in the ritual of his office,
let the simple man remember
to think of the soil and of his duty,
to propagate the canticle of the wine.
– Pablo Neruda
Señorita Vino had the recent honor of dining at Boa in West Hollywood with one of Chile’s premier winemakers, Aurelio Montes, who was in Los Angeles to promote Montes Wine’s newest project, Outer Limits, featuring wines made in vineyards on the more remote boundaries of some of Chile’s most renowned wine growing regions.
Outer Limits is designed to appeal to a new generation of wine drinkers who are open to new expressions of classic grape blends. Case in point: Wines made from the Montes vineyard located in Zapallar, a beach resort about 112 miles north of Santiago on the Pacific coast. Montes was the first to plant vines here, and one of the resulting wines is made from a classic blend of Carignan, Grenache and Mourvedre, but with an intensity and a slight salinity that hint at the vines’ seaside soil and climate.
In last week’s post, we talked about terroir, or how climate, geography and soil affect the aromas and flavors of a wine. Another significant influence are winemaking techniques. We could spend half a year talking about the various decisions a vintner makes that will impact the flavor, texture and aroma of a finished wine. For now, I want to mention one of Montes’ more esoteric techniques. Gregorian chant music is piped into the barrel room of his winery, because, as he puts it, “Happy people make good wine.” Amen to that!
Music by monks is not the only divine element playing into Montes Wines. Angels are ever present on nearly all Montes wine labels and in quite a few of the names. Montes tells the story of a recently deceased winemaking partner whose love of motorcycles and penchant for risk-taking resulted in some close calls. He believed his guardian angel saved him from near-lethal scrapes, and the two decided to incorporate angels into their fledgling winery back in 1989. The company has since enjoyed stratospheric success, and Montes is a firm believer in paying it forward. In September, the company will launch its “Angels in Action” campaign, through which 5 percent of total sales will be donated to the Cystic Fibrosis Foundation.
And speaking of things celestial and sublime, a post about Montes Wines would not be complete without mentioning the Montes Alpha M wines. I tasted the 2009 vintage and was impressed by the silky tannins and bold fruit aromas. This is an elegant wine that can be aged about 20 years and is a harmonious blend of 80 percent Cabernet Sauvignon, 10 percent Merlot, 5 percent Cabernet Franc and 5 percent Petit Verdot. Though definitely not a bargain wine at about $90 a bottle, it’s worth the investment if you’re starting a wine collection and are looking for some bottles you can hold onto for a special occasion.
Food and wine together are edible poetry, in my book. Chile makes some refreshing white wines that pair well with poultry, seafood or veggie dishes. I was able to taste some Montes Outer Limits Sauvignon Blanc. Crisp, refreshing and ripe with aromas of gooseberry and grapefruit, this is a perfect complement to a fish dish or, as part of our tasting menu at Boa, a Caesar salad.
One of the appealing features of Chilean wines is the value, and Montes Wines are no exception. Many of the wines I tasted at the Montes luncheon retail for $15 or less. Some of the Outer Limits wines are in this general price point, and can be found at Whole Foods, but I suggest searching online if you don’t have a Whole Foods store near you.
Neruda’s epic poem, Canto General, is an homage to nature and the Americas. At nearly 500 pages, it’s an undertaking to read it, especially if you have a crazy-busy life. If you should stumble across a copy and have time to read only a few lines, may I suggest the brief section entitled, El Vino. I leave you with an excerpt:
“Sing with me until the glasses spill over, leaving purple spread out over the table. This nectar comes to your mouth from the earth, from its dark roots.”
– Pablo Neruda, Canto General
[El full disclosure: The luncheon I attended was a press event sponsored by Montes Wines. The opinions expressed in this post are my own. ¡Salud!]