This blog was written a few weeks ago. It was when Don Day’s friend Lil was visiting San Miguel and had just returned from La Europea, the town’s best wine store. It was there that a very knowledgable sounding customer recommended Montevina to her as Mexico’s best value red. Later that day she asked me if I knew the wine and what my opinion was. Basically she wanted to know how could a wine this cheap be this good? So Don Day sat down and wrote what he knew and thought about Montevina but he didn’t publish it. You see, when he got to La Europea, the cupboard was bare. And rather than frustrate and annoy my readers, I just kept my mouth shut. Until today.
Don Day’s Wife has a theory about men: If they ain’t handsome, they better be handy. Don Day has a somewhat similar theory about wine: If they ain’t got finesse, they better be fruity.
As a person who’s occasionally mistaken for someone who knows something about food and drink, Don Day is occasionally asked to recommend a good, economical Mexican red wine. As much as he’d love to give a brilliant answer, frankly, until the last couple of years, he was totally stumped. The problem had been that word economical.
Don Day truly believes in the movement towards eating and drinking local but, on a retiree’s budget, especially one with an almost unquenchable thirst, cheap but good red Mexican wine has been impossible to find. I’m not sure why. There are a lot of decent Mexican wines once you get over the $15 hurdle but, under that price, buena suerte. Other countries such as Chile, Argentina and South Africa have built international reputations with their affordable wines but not Mexico. I’ve rarely ever seen a Mexican wine outside of North America. And I doubt that I ever will unless they change their production and pricing strategies. There have been a couple of reasonably priced Mexican whites I’ve drank off and on but I’ve been starved for a red. Any decent Mexican red wine I’ve had has been over 200 pesos (about $15) a bottle; it sure is hard to pay that when I can get a comparable Chilean for half the price.
Then one day Don Day discovered Montevina. Our friends Arturo and Nicole brought it to dinner. It never got opened that night (which doesn’t mean that a lot of other bottles didn’t) but it did the next day.
The wine is the low end offering of Casa Madero winery. It’s made from grapes grown in the Valle de Parras about 200 miles west of Monterrey, in North/Central Mexico. There is documentation of wine being made at Casa Madero as early as the sixteenth century, making it the oldest winery in the Americas and many of the grapes grown today in California and Chile can be traced back to the Valle de Parras. Casa Madero is located just outside of Parras, a town that sometimes gets compared to San Miguel de Allende.
Montevina is 60% Cabernet Sauvignon and 40% Merlot. A Bordeaux style blend like this would normally spend some time in oak barrels. Montevina is, however, fermented exclusively in stainless steel tanks resulting in flavors that have little depth, fewer intricacies, less elegance. What this wine does have, however, is bushels of fruit. There are plums and raspberry on the nose as well as strawberry and blackberry on the tongue. Though refreshing is not a word I’d usually use for a red wine, I’m tempted to use it for this one. Already, the 2013 is on the shelves and Montevina should definitely be consumed while it’s still young.
One of the mistakes that people make with young, fruity wines in North America is serving them at room temperature. To get the best out of Montevina, Don Day strongly recommends it spend ten or fifteen minutes in the fridge before serving, bringing it down to about 15 degrees C (60F). I’d also tend to serve it with chicken or pork rather than beef or lamb which deserve a bigger wine with more tannins.
A couple of years ago, we even made Montevina our house red for a couple of months. That means we made it the everyday wine we’d buy by the case and the red we’ll almost always drink except for occasional splurges. That is as hearty a recommendation as you’ll ever hear from Don Day.
So why am I now finally posting this little story about Montevina? Is it finally in stock at La Europea? No, unfortunately the cupboard’s still bare. But at least the when-are-you-expecting-it answer has now gone from next month to next week. No, Don Day found Montevina elsewhere.
There’s a decent stock (though not all on the shelf) at Cava Sautto. If you’ve ever been there, you’ll know that their method of display is both incredibly charming and entirely dysfunctional. So a little help in finding the Montevina. You head up the stairs at the back, walk straight to the very end of the catwalk and you’ll see it hiding in the bottom racks. And as Cava Sautto is also not very good at pricing their wares, I’ll tell you it’s 95 pesos (about $7) a bottle.
Cava Sautto is located at Hernandez Macias #59 in San Miguel de Allende, Mexico. They are open from 10:00 am to 8:00 pm Monday to Thursday and 10:00 am to 9:00 pm Friday and Saturday.