Chile Uncorked: Carménère meets Curry

“You need chaos in your soul to give birth to a dancing star.” – Friedrich Nietzsche. I think there was a bit of "chaos" in the hearts and minds of Chilean winemakers back in the nineties discovering something they thought was true, was actually something entirely different.

That bit of chaos came to fruition in 1994 when Chilean producers were told; "umm, that's not Merlot growing in your vineyards".  To their chagrin, it was, in fact, Carmenere, known to many as Bordeaux's sixth grape variety. Another grape the French had kicked to curb in the twentieth century. Like Malbec, Carmenere was given re-birth of sorts or in terms of human relationships, a second chance to become the dancing star on the Chilean wine scene. A dancing star of which; I was happy to introduce to a great group of wandering-winos in search of the newest vinous fix.

I know I'm a bit late to the party regarding coverage on the Carmenere and Curry Twitter Taste live event from a few weeks ago, nonetheless, I wanted to take this opportunity to speak about Carmenere Curry Mixer which I hosted here at Chez Vino. This event presented the perfect opportunity to highlight this wonderful wine to many of wine-swirling friends who've not seen too much it before. Although this great wine is gaining more and more momentum and name recognition among not only the wine-savvy but even the garden variety wino.

That evening our group and the many other wine-blogging folks had opportunities to experience eight different samples of Carmenere, from eight different producers. When the yields are kept low and vintners allow for enough hang time, you'll find that Carménère delivers some of the best qualities of your favorite Cabernet Sauvignons and Merlots all in one grape.

What I found with many of these wines tasted that evening [see list below] was many deep crimson colors filling my glass, great body and structure on the palate, boatloads of plum-like, red and dark fruit leaning flavors with interesting notes of smoky, spicy and earthy notes that took more time than I thought they would open up.

From reading many other wine bloggers impressions, there did seem to be an overall arching theme, that the next day, the wines were remarkably better. One of the big takeaways for me [even though I opened these wines early in the day] is that Carmenere needs a good bit of time in the decanter before it will hit its full expression on your palate. The provided curry spice didn't really marry too well with the wines; I thought it was too over-powering for the wines selected.
1. Emiliana Natura Carmenere 2010 Colchagua Valley $16.99: This wine was one of the early favorites that evening for it's easying going personality, abundant fruit and uncomplicated body, made for an early and easy quaff.
2. Casa Silva Los Lingues Gran Reserva Carmenere 08 Colchagua Valley $22.00
3. Santa Rita Medalla Real Gran Reserva Carmenere 08 Colchagua Valley $19.99
4. Montes Alpha Carmenere Colchagua Valley 2008 $24.00: Another highlight of the evening, this wine opened a little quicker than others, making it a crowd favorite. Something I would call a beefy little number, singing with vibrant plum, cherry on a canvas of sweet vanilla, spice, and graphite, laying the groundwork for a moderately sized finish that is eager to please. Another wonderful producer, that over-delivers on many different levels.
5. Carmen Gran Reserva Carmenere 2009 Apalta Valley $16.99
6. Santa Carolina Reserva de Familia Carmenere 2009 Rapel Valley $19.99

7. Concha y Toro Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere 2009 Rapel Valley $20.00: Another favorite of the evening, a real crowd-pleasing quaff, as my guests were coming back to this wine over and over. This producer really over delivers in wines at this price point, this is the second sample of this wine I've had the good fortune to evaluate. This wine is best described as a racy and delicious, delivering a focused pure beam of blackberry, plum, and boysenberry, spice, and graphite round out this wine, leading to a plush finish.

8. Haras de Pirque Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere 2007 Maipo Valley $13.00: I decided to decant this wine right away, it had been open and decanting at least three hours before my guests were to arrive. To me, this wine for represented one of the best values of the evening. What you have here, is a delightful blend of Cabernet Sauvignon and Carmenere, Cab-Franc and a splash of Syrah. Wow, this wine was my favorite of the evening, but I felt it didn't really belong in the lineup. 

That said, my guests were really impressed with this wine and so happy get a splash in their glasses the decanter felt a bit bum-rushed in the process.

Nonetheless, a concentrated, grippy wine, with dark, roasted plum, black licorice playing the background, a bit of charcoal and bittersweet cocoa notes. This is a big wine, which takes time to unfold. I'd pair it with your favorite item from the grill, a pure pleasure in the glass, a back-yard grilling favorite, making it a QPR winning wine. One made in a drink now and drink often style, buy a case.

What a great way to introduce folks to new grape variety, they may have never experienced before. I ended up sending everyone a copy of the fact sheet, which listed every wine tasted that evening because they were excited to revisit a few of these wines on their own. If you would like to know more about all the wonderful Wines of Chile, I'd invite you to visit their very informative website. Until next time folks, sip long and prosper cheers!


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