The First Ultra-Premium Chilean Syrah Wine: Montes Folly

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This is the story of a rare red wine coming from a pioneering winery in Chile, the story a pioneer winemaker in the name of Aurelio Montes who dared to plant vines on extremely steep vineyards to produce the best red wine he could possibly make, giving birth to his ‘Folly’, the first Ultra-Premium Chilean Syrah.

You will also find below my complete tasting notes, rating, and aging potential of this jewel of a wine, brought to you in an exceptional 2011 vintage by the Alti Wine Exchange: the rare Montes Folly Syrah.

But first, let’s have a quick look at the background story behind this wine and its makers.

Watch the Story & Wine Review of Montes Folly in Video

Montes, Pioneering Chilean Winery

In 1987, Aurelio Montes and Douglas Murray, two businessmen with ample experience in the world of wine, wanted to bring to life their dreams of making world-class wine in Chile.

In 1988, they added the other two original partners, Alfredo Vidaurre and Pedro Grand, each one contributing their area of expertise.

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They settled in an area whose potential wasn’t discovered at the time but that is now considered one of the best regions in Chile to make wine, the Colchagua valley. Young Aurelio Montes who was a winemaker in the area back then knew he could make great things here.

From the start, Aurelio Montes was recognised as an excellent oenologist with incredible commercial instincts. He was one of the first in Chile to sell his wines internationally. When this great challenge commenced, Chile was not producing according to global demand. Consumers were in search for high quality wines, a need Montes identified and responded to in a timely fashion.

Now things got even more interesting when on the Montes estate, they decided to plant vines not only in the flat valley which is what Chileans used to do, but also on the hillsides, in the early 1990s.

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Everyone thought they were crazy as the steep slopes make viticulture much harder.

Montes Wines was the first to plant on the 45˚ hillside slopes, an innovative idea that came with great risk. Aurelio recounts, “Everyone told us that we were crazy, that it was much more manageable to plant on the flat ground. However, in our second year we had already managed to produce nearly 600 thousand bottles of high quality wine. There are certain aspects of planting on the hillsides that can be managed, such as the quantity of water used and the plant’s nutrition, which allows more control of grape quality and quantity”.

Yet, it turned out to be a good choice, as it is on these mountains that Montes can now produce their best wines like Montes Alpha M, Purple Angel and Montes Folly.

On the slopes, vines struggle more making for more concentrated wines. One of the secrets to Montes Wines quality and global reputation.

Montes Folly. The First Ultra Premium Chilean Syrah

Three things are rare about Montes Folly.

A Rare World-Class Grape

One, it is made from the Syrah grape which is rather unusual for Chile.

Of course, Syrah is the grape of French origin that makes some of the best wines in the world like in the Rhone Valley of France, wines like Côte-Rotie, Hermitage, or Châteauneuf-du-Pape.

Syrah also makes the best and most expensive wines coming out of Australia like the iconic Penfolds Grange.

There’s a great pedigree Syrah. But Chileans have generally been focusing on other grape varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon or Carménère, not Syrah.

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The Steep Slopes of Apalta

Secondly, Montes Folly Syrah vines are planted on the steepest and highest slopes of Montes vineyard on their Apalta estate. Some of these slopes reach a staggering 45-degree incline.

Vines yield small quantities of grapes here, increasing further the concentration of the wine, its color and tannic density.

Essentially, everyone though Montes was foolish not to plant Syrah in Chile, but also and more importantly to plant on such difficult terrain. The investment to clear, plant and grow vines on these slopes was a great risk.

This is why the wine is called ‘Folly’ as to reflect the said madness of Aurelio Montes for taking on such a challenge.

History proved him right though as Montes Folly is arguably his best winegrowing and winemaking success.

Often the hardest grapes to grow make for the best wines. Think of the Mosel Rieslings for example or the other world-class Syrah of the Rhone, both grown on incredibly steep slopes.

Folly is another great example.

To refine Folly and deepen its flavors, Montes Folly was aged for 18 months in the finest New French oak barrels at the winery’s state-of-the-art circular ageing room. To retain its total integrity, Folly was bottled unfiltered.

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Not just a wine label: Art

The third rare thing about Folly is its label.

The art is deigned by acclaimed illustrator Ralph Steadman and is considered a collector’s item as his paintings change at every available vintage.

The 2011 vintage label theme is an illustration of the snow-capped Osorno Volcano (8,730 feet in height) and the scenic Emerald lake in Patagonia, to extreme South of Chile and the American continent.

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Famous international wine critic James Suckling scored this wine a whopping 97/100 points.

This is what he said about 2011 Montes Folly Syrah: “Fabulous aromas of dark berries and granite. Flowers and sliced raw meat too. Full-bodied and velvety with incredible length. Clearly the best Syrah of Chile. Very exciting. A great year for Syrah with a long hang time.”

But enough said about the background story of Folly, let’s find out what Montes Folly vintage 2011 actually tastes like at 8 years of age, and how long it might be able to age for is you are to invest in it.

Montes Folly. Wine Review and Aging Potential

Collector wines not only need a unique back story that Montes Folly certainly has.

They also must taste good, and be able to withstand and improve with time.

Here are the tasting notes and the assessment of the aging potential of 2011 Montes Folly by Alti’s Chiek Wine Officer Julien Miquel:

“The color is certainly dense and dark, like we expect from Syrah. It looks surprisingly vibrant, young and shiny for an 8 year old wine.

The nose is very deep and captivating, combining elegant notes of violet flowers. Rather floral, Folly is also very fruity, boasting notes of fresh blackberry and ripe dark cherry.

The depth to the aromatic profile comes from profound notes of dark chocolate and coffee, with sweetening caramel tones. The whole is lifted by the black pepper aromas that is so typical of Syrah. An extremely complex, fascinating and enchanting aromatic profile.

This is an extremely smooth and silky wine to the palate. The weight and the rich texture are delivered with smoothness and balance.

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The powerful flavors of rich fruit and spices come through very elegantly, with a distinctive finesse brought in by the floral components.

Utterly harmony and perfectly balance result in a totally seamless, calm yet vibrant tasting experience, bearing the mark of great world-class wine.

Clearly a wine in the top 1% on the global scale, above the 95- point mark.

2011 Folly feels surprisingly young in spite of its 8 years of age at the time of this tasting.

This will be a wine that will be fantastic in 20 years and should age well for a very long time. It’s very pleasing to enjoy now, but it will be even better come 2040 or 2050.

By Julien Miquel

WinesMarta Barros