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2008: Vintage of Angels

Chile grants us a wonderful Carménère once again

Purple Angel by Montes, Vintage 2008

While I have to admit that I have never been a hardcore fan of the Chilean wine in general, I have always had a healthy respect for the premium range of produce from the non-industrial, premium line of wines the country has to offer. One particular producer, Montes S.A., grants us something akin to the Super Tuscans, a Super Carménère: Purple Angel, 2008 vintage.

This review does not pretend to be about a great and accessible wine. This is more of a special occasion type of wine, but still, at around $100 a bottle, this is still a bargain if you can find it.

Purple Angel is one of the rare wines which suffers from an excess of demand, because Montes S.A. simply has not enough of it, no matter how you slice and dice it. A few countries have a chance to get a few dozen bottles every year, and if you happen to see one in the shelves my advice is "go for it while you can!".

The producer, Viña Montes S.A., Twitter @MontesWines, hails from Chile and has a very notorious premium line. M, Folly, Purple Angel and more recently Taita, are the core of this line. Way apart from the industrial reaches of the wine which dominate many countries, Montes has made a clear distinction between their commercial and premium lines, which is a valid and honest way to do business. The high note? Some of their premium practices can actually be found in their commercial lines, making their wines a great bang for buck option. Montes is not by any measure an old producer, Aurelio Montes and Douglas Murray embarked on this venture in 1987 (and they incorporated another 2 founder associates a year later: Vidaurre and Grand). Montes's objective: get completely out of the industrial scene and set sights on quality. It was not a matter of who sold the most wine, it was about who sold the most quality.

Incredibly (or maybe, naturally) the success of this endeavor was basically instant: they became the first Premium Wine to be exported from Chile and generated wildly positive reviews from experts around the world. They basically opened the doors of the super premium market for Chile, something that has to be recognized.

Back on the subject, Purple Angel is in a category of its own as a Super Carménère (although nowadays I would certainly include Carmín de Peumo here as well). Not just wordplay, like with every other region-exclusive varietal, Chile does not go easy on their Carménère and we can be assured a reference like this one is not given easily. Carménère is one of those special cases in the wine world: thought extinct in France, it reappeared later on at Chile, becoming the country's national grape.

As a note to the curious, there is not a single vintage of Purple Angel to date that is 100% Carménère: 2008, in particular, is a delicate blend of 92% Carménère and 8% Petit Verdot, which reminds us of Bordeux and works wonderfully here.

Past the heavy bottle, you will find a wine with a deep purple color with scarlet edges on the glass. Whirl the glass for a truly hypnotic event, it is mesmerizing.

The nose is somewhat alcoholic even after all these years. Probably because we are looking at a 15% per volume alcohol rate, yet not unusual on high-end Carménère. The second nose will let you find the oak barrel, violet and vanilla notes.

The palate gives us the chance to justify the title "Super Carménère": with a sweet first impression, the wine quickly develops into well-rounded tannins, vanilla swirls and a light toast, which then start giving space to black pepper, ripe red fruit, and a firmer oak impression. The finish is persistent, very persistent.

This wine is good enough to drink (slowly!) by itself and will do well with all the usual full-bodied pairings. My favorite pairing is actually dry aged medium-rare beef (your choice of cut) with a simple sea salt seasoning and a simpler even green salad with sweet honey-mustard dressing.

Whatever your choice, rest assured your Angel will make sure you enjoy the experience! Cheers!

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