Happy Carménère Day!
November 23rd is #CarmenereDay
Carménère – The Lost Grape
Ever hear of Carménère? It’s a bit like one of those “Switched at Birth” mysteries with a happy ending. Carménère was originally one of 6 allowed blending grapes for use in Bordeaux red wines, but it was particularly hard hit during the 1800’s Phylloxera epidemic in Europe.
Thought to be extinct, the grape turned up in Chile 21 years ago. As it turns out, Merlot vines were imported and planted, but some of them didn’t behave as expected. They ripened later than the other Merlot vines, and they didn’t look quite the same. After some detective work, these mystery vines were identified as Carménère. Voilà! Since then, Chile has embraced the grape and considers it one of their flagship varieties.
#CarmenereDay is an annual event organized by the Wines of Chile, designed to promote greater awareness of Carménère based wines from Chile. As part of the event, they provided bloggers with samples of four different wines and invited us to participate in a live chat on Twitter, enhanced with some live video on Periscope.
One important fact I learned during our chat: winemakers in Chile value their diversity. Beyond differences in vineyard conditions, they have dramatically different approaches to their wines. This is great if you like a grape, but it can present a challenge if you’re standing in a shop, looking at several wines and wondering which style each might be. Time to find your knowledgable shop employee!
Food Pairing with Carménère
The promotion was also timed with the suggestion of Carménère as a choice for the Thanksgiving holiday table. Thoughtfully, the materials included several side dish suggestions as recipe cards. I tried their squash suggestion, which was perfect with the wine. After tasting the wines, I would place them at the table with red meats. The deep flavors and tannins make them a hard sell for poultry for me. So for my test, I made a simple grilled sirloin along with the squash, a combination I would highly recommend with Carménère.
Los Vascos Grande Reserve Carménère 2013 (available around $15)
In 1988 Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) from Bordeaux purchased land in Chile to expand their horizons into the new world. The Los Vascos wine is from Chile, but it’s French roots are so clear!
Eye: Inky opaque dark center, purple edge
Nose: Stinky nose, especially at opening. Blind, I would guess Rhone, old school. Herbal green pepper, dark chocolate, red fruit but obscured by the other smells.
Mouth: Medium body, not overly ripe. Med + tannins, but refined and smooth. Nice length in the finish.
Probably my favorite of the bunch, but only good for an old world palette. Friends with a typical American palette wouldn’t care for it. Still, I liked it a lot.
Casa Silva Los Lingues Vineyard Carménère 2013 (available around $18)
Eye: Opaque center, but translucent before the very edge. Purple edge.
Nose: Dark blue fruit, a touch of herbal green pepper. Plus cocoa and smoke.
Mouth: Medium tannins, medium body, not overly ripe. Short finish. I have to admit, I just couldn’t figure this wine out, something in the flavor just seemed off balance for me.
Lapostolle Cuvee Alexander Carménère 2012 (available around $16)
Eye: Purely opaque, purplish red-brick edge
Nose: Sweet red fruit, strawberries, chocolate background. No herbal edge.
Mouth: Medium body, medium + tannins. Pure clean finish, medium length.
Good choice for a wide variety of tastes, very clean, no stink or green pepper. Probably the best of the group for a first foray into Carménère. If you enjoy this one, you might want to try some others for variety.
Maquis Viola Carménère 2009 (available around $50)
Eye: Opaque center, deep dark right to the edge. Purple edge just barely tending warm.
Nose: Clean, deep dark blue fruit, chocolate, maybe some leather in there.
Mouth: Strong tannins, most tannic of the bunch, but lower acidity. Gave a smooth impression.
Good wine for people who like a big lush deep dark red wine. Not my type, but well made in that vein.
Adapted from a recipe provided by Wines of Chile, developed by Omni Hotels & Resorts This recipe was provided as a suggested side dish for Thanksgiving served with Carménère from Chile. As we were previewing the wine shortly before Thanksgiving, we served the squash with a simply grilled steak. Ingredients Instructions
Roasted Squash with Pepita & Queso Fresco
Adapted from a recipe provided by Wines of Chile, developed by Omni Hotels & Resorts
This recipe was provided as a suggested side dish for Thanksgiving served with Carménère from Chile. As we were previewing the wine shortly before Thanksgiving, we served the squash with a simply grilled steak.
The wines for this post were provided by Wines of Chile as part of a promotion around #CarmenereDay. All opinions expressed are my own. Thanks to the Wines of Chile and the participating wineries for providing the wines to try!