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Wine Review: Andes a force in wine development

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The Andes Mountains not only separate two countries - Chile and Argentina - but they also separate two distinctly different grape-growing environments.

Argentinean vineyards are blessed with weather controlled by the South Atlantic breezes, while the Pacific Ocean controls weather at the Chilean vineyards. Is there a difference in the wine made from the same variety of grapes grown in each of these countries? You bet there is, but it is in the subtle nuances rather than a dramatic change in the basic flavors and aromas.
 
Argentinean vineyards take advantage of the mineral-ladened melting snow flowing down from the Andes, irrigating the vines and imparting a distinctive flavor to the wines.

Chilean vines are an anomaly in themselves. In almost every vineyard in the world, vines are grafted onto root stock resistant to attack by phylloxera, a root-munching bug that almost destroyed the vineyards of Europe in the mid-1800s. The phylloxera eventually hit every wine grape-growing country in the world - except Chile, where the vines still are grown on their own roots.

Some believe grapes grown on their own roots produce superior wines.
 
Kaiken Ultra 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon ($25)
The Kaiken 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon is an Argentinean version of a familiar melody. This wine offers all of the expected flavors and aromas of a cab but with an added extra flair, an interesting and enticing mineral element. This deep ruby-colored, medium-bodied wine presents the clean and open aroma of spice, black currants, vanilla and oak. The flavor accents the ancestral flavor of a cab with cranberry, raspberry and oak. It’s in the finish where the mineral element comes to the forefront by concentrating and enhancing the fruit flavors. All things considered, this is a very interesting and enjoyable wine.
 
Montes Alpha 2013 Cabernet Sauvignon ($25)
This wine is on the other side of the cabernet savignon coin. It could best be called “the Chilean experience.”  The aroma is big, bold, obvious and a fiesta of berry and dark fruit scents. These aromas are constantly changing and are inviting as well as intriguing. The flavor, which is very concentrated, is as interesting and dynamic as is the aroma. There are the flavors of cassis and deep dark berries but also a hint of cherries, chocolate and cranberries. Is a wine better when grown on its own root? You decide.
 
Kaiken 2015 Torrontes ($17)
The torrontes is a white grape from Spain that thrives in Argentina. The Kaiken 2015 Torrontes is a dry white wine that begs to be enjoyed with seafood, especially shrimp or shellfish. It is a soft, fruity wine stressing violets, jasmine and spice in the aroma with peach, citrus and tropical fruits dominating the flavor. It then trails off to a bright, crisp finish. This isn’t the the usual white wine, but it’s interesting none the less.
 
Montes 2014 Limited Selection Pinot Noir ($15)
Devout pinot noir lovers likely will be taken with the Montes 2014 Pinot Noir. The first thing that will catch your attention is the color, which is much darker than most California pinot noirs. An aroma of black cherry, raspberry and strawberry is backed up by summer flowers, resulting in a complex and multilayered experience. The flavor reprises the aroma with a hint of licorice and oak in the background. The finish is long and continues the fruity merry-go-round.
 
Montes 2015 Classic Series Savignon Blanc ($13)  
Here is a wine that successfully rides the fence between the French and Californian styles. The aroma stresses pear, grapefruit and vanilla with a hint of summer flowers and toast in the background. The flavor does a 180-degree turn and returns to the classical style of grapefruit, green apple and pear with a hint of the classical grassiness in the background.This is another version of this very popular grape variety and its affordable price allows it to be enjoyed more often.

Nixa resident Bennet Bodenstein is a wine columnist and manages ArticlesOnWine.com. He can be reached at ben@articlesonwine.com.

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