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05 November 2012

Chile: a couple of 'Carmeneres of the moment'

Juicy Carmenere
from en.wikipedia.org

There's a feature I wrote HERE on Chile's love/hate affair with Carmenere, or Carmenère to give it its French accent, told from leading winery De Martino's perspective about their trials, tribulations and eventual success with this quirky variety adopted more or less by accident. As that piece touches on, DNA tests in the early 1990s confirmed that much of what was believed to be Merlot was actually Carmenère, a once fairly common variety in Bordeaux before the phylloxera bug invasion destroyed vineyards in the 19th Century, but was never widely replanted. So, to cut a no doubt long story short, it ended up in Chile the following century when people brought over cuttings and seedlings of 'Merlot' presumably.
Chilean wineries were given a bit of time to sort out their blends and labelling, as there are now nearly 9000 hectares (over 22,000 acres) of it planted; and Carmenere started appearing on labels as a varietal or in blends from the mid 90s. De Martino's winemaker Marcelo Retamal commented at that tasting: "Fifteen years later, we've been trying to understand it and we're still learning!" Other wineries on that Chile archive page that seem to be doing good things with Carmenere include Ventisquero, Echeverría, Bisquertt and Errázuriz.
Anyway, back to the current Carmenere action and those two promised new wines, both of them supermarket own-labels actually. On a geeky linguistic note, from memory the Tesco wine had a grave accent and the Morrison's one didn't; read what you like into that!

2011 Carmenère Doña Dominga, Colchagua Valley (14%) - deep purple black colour, dense and vibrant youthful fruit with 'inky' dark plum notes edged with soy sauce aromas, that 'sweet/sour' flavour theme continues on the palate with fair concentration of rich vs tangy fruit, quite firm and fresh too with lingering red/black fruits and spicy red pepper tones. Different and good with it, needs a few months in bottle perhaps to calm down a bit. £8.49 Tesco Finest.

2010 Carmenere, Colchagua Valley (13.5%) - it doesn't say which winery made it (annoying that, as if Morrison's brewed it up in Bradford). Similarly dense colour and texture, this has a more obvious layer of vanilla oak that adds (sweeter) flavour and roundness, quite chunky and tasty though with nice ripe vs spicy/tangy undertones, firm vs rounded finish. Like the Tesco wine, this improved after being open for a day. Morrison's £6.99.

Industry body Wines of Chile launched a 'Carmenere with curry' marketing initiative last year, and I can kind of see what they mean although not convinced it's a brilliant match. Depends on the dish, as hot chillis really clash with tannin in red wine whatever other suitable taste attributes it might have. However, the Morrison's Carmenere was pretty good with a fairly spicy beef burrito (bought in Asda funnily enough, who probably also do a Carmenere; I'll have to check...)

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Header image: Château de Flandry, Limoux, Languedoc. Background: Vineyard near Terrats in Les Aspres, Roussillon.