Premium Chilean winemaker Aurelio Montes has started a new operation in Mendoza, Argentina.

Named after a wild Andean goose, the new Kaikén range from Chile-based Viña Montes will be introduced in early 2004, with four wines – one each of 2002 vintage Premium and Reserve Malbec and Cabernet Sauvignon.

The grapes have been bought from growers – in the Pedriel and Agrelo districts of Lujan de Cuyo, as well as Tupungato, in the Valle de Uco {all located within Mendoza} – and vinified in a leased facility.

‘We wanted Viña Montes to grow, but felt we had pushed it as far as we could in Chile,’ said Montes, the company’s co-owner. ‘We did not want to try discounting or other offers. I believe we have the potential to produce high quality wines in Argentina that are completely different from those we produce in Chile.’

Montes points to differences in both terroir and climate. ‘Chile has a Mediterranean coastal climate, while Argentina’s is in general more continental,’ he said. ‘Mendoza itself is a desert, it gets one-fifth of the rain we get in Chile – and there’s always a risk of hail.’ One of Montes’ contracted growers lost his whole crop to hail – which is why the producer is buying from several sources.

Montes considers the Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec makes fuller, bigger wine than Argentina’s slightly leaner, more elegant versions. ‘I would say the Chilean wines have more ‘personality’ – while the Kaikén wines are more refined, more sophisticated,’ he said.

In Chile Viña Montes produces the Alpha range (Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah and Chardonnay), Alpha M (Cabernet blend), and the super-premium Folly Syrah, with a label designed by UK artist Ralph Steadman.

Argentina is by no means Montes’ first foray abroad: he has also made a St Emilion Grand Cru called Sanctus with his Bordeaux-based cousin Patrick Baseden.

If all goes well with Kaikén, Viña Montes may purchase its own land and build a winery in Mendoza, Montes said.

Written by Maggie Rosen