All this week, I'll be revisiting companies or wineries whose products I've tasted in the past. I happened to get three sets of new wines from three such groups, and am happy to present them to you as we begin the slide into the holiday season.
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Last November I tried six Chilean Carménères. One year later, it's time for a roundup of eight additional bottles of this curious little orphaned grape.
As part of the Wines of Chile promotion for these wines, dozens of other winebloggers joined in a combination webcast, conference call, chat session, and Twitter feed. We got to hear from the individual winemakers down in Chile, a representative of Wines of Chile in New York, and share comments and questions amongst ourselves. I think the funniest part for me was hearing a bit of the joking and trash-talking about various valleys within Chile; the total area for wine production is pretty small, and is all focused on a narrow band around the middle of a very narrow country (imagine a snake wearing a cummerbund). But as with everywhere else on the planet, North and South takes on significant meaning.
I tried these wines on my own and made notes, and then a few hours later tried them with a handful of friends. Some are wine lovers, some are novices. I will say that while I love Carménère, I think it has to have some breathing room, and typically a few hours are necessary for it to smooth out. Straight out of the bottle it can be all bitter and strong tobacco. Don't get me wrong, I love bitter flavors and enjoy a good cigar. But these notes can be off-putting to some wine drinkers. With a little air you get more of the fruit, earth, and other elements.
2007 Santa Carolina Reserva Carménère
100% Carménère from the Rapel Valley
$10, 14% abv
This was the only one with a synthetic cork, and the winemaker Magdalena Sosa was a charming favorite during the videoconference. This wine had classic elements of green bell pepper, black cherry, touch of licorice. Bold and tart, short finish.
2007 Armador Odfjell Carménère
100% Carménère from the Colcahagua and Maipo Valleys
$13, 13.5% abv
Cherry, herbal, black pepper and thyme, touch of pine, lighter mouthfeel, a little brash. Short finish.
2007 Viu Manent Reserva Carménère
100% Carménère from the Colchagua Valley
$14, 14.5% abv
Green tomato leaves, touch of smoke, leather, medium tannins, long finish. A solid textbook Carménère, if you're looking to learn more about the grape.
2007 Cono Sur Visión Carménère
85% Carménère, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, 6% Syrah
$15, 13.5% abv
Slightly bitter, bright red cherry flavor, touch of seeds. Very light mouthfeel. The first of the blends in this group, and an organic wine to boot.
2008 Viña la Rosa "La Capitana" Carménère
100% Carménère from the Cachapoal Valley
$18, 14.5% abv
Drying tannins, bit of tea, cherry. At this point in the lineup, we're getting more serious... As a side note, La Capitana means flagship in Spanish.
2007 Ventisquero Grey Carménère
85% Carménère, 7.5% Syrah, 7.5% Cabernet Sauvignon from the Maipo Valley
$25, 14.5% abv
Toasty, blackberries, spice, smoother, lingering finish with spice on the tongue. This one began to get really nice as it breathed over the course of five hours.
2007 Terra Andina Altos Carménère-Carignan
60% Carménère, 40% Carignan from the Central Valley
$19, 14% abv
Dark plum, rich and velvety, lovely dark flavors. Paired nicely with the mostly vegetarian appetizers we were enjoying; fascinating combination of two lesser-appreciated grapes.
2004 Carmen Wine Maker's Reserve Red
50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Carménère, 25% Petit Syrah from the Maipo Valley
$44, 14% abv
Rich, deep aromas, chocolate, leather, black cherry, big and tannic at first but oh so delightful as it breathed. It's a bit unfair to compare this with the rest since it's five years old and is a creative blend, but without prompting from me this bottle was the first to empty out during the tasting with my friends.
These wines were received as a sample from Wines of Chile. The tasting kit included a ceramic spittoon and a corkscrew.