Viña MontGras, located in Chile's Colchagua Valley, has debuted the first release from its extensive new Ninquén (pronounced nin-KEN) mountain vineyards.
The wine, a 100 percent Cabernet Sauvignon from the 2000 vintage, rates 90—92 points based on several nonblind tastings in recent weeks. An official review based on our formal blind tastings will appear in the near future. Aged for 19 months in 80 percent new oak (a combination of French and American), the wine shows dense cassis and black currant flavors, with a strong graphite component and a finely grained texture. Previous MontGras bottlings that bore the Ninquén name were not sourced from the mountain vineyards.
The MontGras Ninquén Colchagua 2000 will retail for $30 a bottle, a relative value in today's heated Cabernet Sauvignon market. A total of 250 of the 1,500 cases produced are slated for release in the United States in January.
The wine is made by owner and chief winemaker Hernán Gras, along with MontGras winemaker Santiago Margozzini and California consultant Paul Hobbs. Gras was spurred to purchase the Ninquén mountain, located behind MontGras' current vineyards and winery, after working with vintner Donald Hess, a major proponent of mountain vineyards, in the 1990s.
"We used to just plant on the valley floor in Chile," said Gras. "We really didn't know the first thing about planting on hillsides."
Today in Chile, hillside and mountain vineyards, which typically yield smaller crops and produce higher-quality fruit, are becoming increasingly popular. Viña Montes, MontGras' neighbor to the east, has made Chile's best wine to date, the 2000 Alpha M (93 points, $72), from its hillside vineyard in Apalta.
Ninquén mountain has more than 195 acres of vineyards (planting began in 1997), primarily Cabernet Sauvignon, but also Cabernet Franc, Syrah, Malbec, Carmenère and Merlot. All of the vineyards have drip irrigation installed, an expensive proposition considering the water has to be pumped up the mountain. The extensive project also entailed clearing areas on the slopes and constructing access roads.
Future releases of Ninquén will represent a selection of the best fruit from the mountain vineyards, so the blend of varieties in the bottling may change from vintage to vintage. The grapes that don't make it into the Ninquén bottling are used for MontGras' recently improved reserva wines, which typically retail for $10 to $12 a bottle.
Check our recent ratings of Viña MontGras wines.
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