Yesterday was the 21st year since Carmenère was "rediscovered," having been mistaken for Merlot for many years. One of the six original Bordeaux varietals, Carmenère was brought to Chile in 1851 and is now the 4th largest produced varietal by volume. The name comes from the french word "carmin," or crimson, so named for the fiery red the leaves turn in the fall.
The Carmenère Day celebration was a lot of fun, utilized both Periscope and Twitter, and was celebrated by people all over the world. I was part of a group invited by the Wines of Chile to sample wines and share our experience - though I attempted to tune in to the Periscope offerings, it was too distracting for me and I ended up just chatting on Twitter. Neat idea, but for me, too much.
Los Vascos Grande Reserve 2013: ruby red with garnet edges; plum, raspberry, and tobacco aromas; blackberry, black pepper, and herbal notes; this one needs some bottle time to come together more cohesively; cork closure; SRP $20.
Casa Silva Microterroir de los Lingues 2007: average of 14 year old vines; grapes harvested from micro-sites and fermented separately; mix of wild and inoculated yeasts; aged 12-14 months before blending; dark violet with ruby edges; tart red fruit, black pepper, and herbal aromas; dark fruit flavor, then tart red berries into a coffee and black pepper finish; beautifully balanced and a pleasure to drink; cork closure; SRP $50.
Maquis Gran Reserva 2012: 100% hand picking; cold macerated; fermented in stainless steel tanks; malolactic fermentation; in stainless steel tanks; 80% aged 10 months in second and third use French oak barrels, 20% in stainless steel tanks; softer nose with violet, bright red fruit, and strawberry aromas; dark fruit, tobacco, tart red fruit into a black pepper finish; this will be amazing after a few more years in bottle; cork closure; SRP $16.
Lapostolle Cuvée Alexandre Apalta Vineyard 2012: hand harvested organic grapes; 96% Carmenére/4% Syrah; wild yeast; fermented in stainless steel tanks and wooden vats; aged in 225L French oak barrels for 9 months: 58% in new oak, 12% in second use, and 30% third use; deep violet color with ruby edges; blackberry, toast, and black pepper aromas; dark fruit, pepper and lots of herbal flavors; another wine that needs more bottle time; wine bottles are now 15% lighter and made from 60-70% recycled glass; cork closure; SRP $24.
I've long been a fan of Carmenère, appreciating especially the black pepper bite that seems to be found in most, if not all, the examples I've tried. This tasting showed how versatile the grape is, with a variety of styles represented. One unexpected thing was that my favorite wine of the night was the Casa Silva, a wine from 2007; while the other, younger wines were all tasty, but in my opinion, needed more bottle time. Carmenère is a grape that can be aged!
(Wines provided for tasting purposes - all opinions are my own.)
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