If you’re looking for a a velvety smooth wine with fewer tannins than Cabernet Sauvignon, it’s time to take a look at Carmenère. Maybe you’ve heard about this Chilean grape or maybe you haven’t.
The story of Carmenère, Chile’s signature grape, is amazing. This red grape, a native French variety once used in Bordeaux, was devastated and nearly rendered extinct by the great phylloxera plague in mid-19th century France. Somehow, it found its way to the new world and resurfaced nearly 100 years later in Chile’s Merlot vineyards. For some reason, Chilean growers thought this grape was Merlot and labeled wines made from this grape as Merlot.
In the 1990s, there was an international Merlot craze, and to determine why Chilean Merlots tasted so different from other wine regions. DNA tests were performed on the grapes. That’s when winemakers discovered that many of the Chilean vines they had called Merlot were actually Carmenère. Once vintners realized the error, they changed their farming techniques to play to the strengths of this “lost Bordeaux” grape.
Today, the Carmenère grape thrives in Chile because of the country’s long growing season, which produces beautifully ripe fruit every year. Chile’s vineyards are also incredibly disease resistant, making it one of the few wine-producing regions in the world to use self-rooted rather than grafted vines. Today, Chile produces the majority of the world’s Carmenère.
Carmenère is not like merlot or cabernet. It’s something in-between the two. Like Merlot, Carmenère has great depth of deep purple color, a jammy-plummy-berry aroma, and soft tannins, but it also seems to have more complexity, structure and earthiness, similar to Cabernet Sauvignon. Basically, Carmenère is distinctive—it makes a velvety smooth wine with a heady dose of pepper, spice, ripe red fruit and a hint of chocolate coffee.
Casas del Bosque, a family-owned and managed winery, less than an hour from Chile’s capital city of Santiago, makes a delicious version with a $9.99 price tag that is well worth a try.
Casas del Bosque Carmenère Reserva 2010 is an intense black cherry-red. A blend of 95% Carmenère and 5% Syrah, it’s aged for nine months in barrel, during which time the wine undergoes a natural malolactic fermentation.
This wine has dense ripe aromas of raspberry, cherry and blackberry spice followed by subtle notes of plum, blueberry jam and cocoa. Oak-based aromas of coffee merge with black pepper, smoke, menthol and graphite for an extremely complex nose.
Creamy oak and soft blackberry fruit are the predomininant flavors of this medium-bodied wine. It is flavorful on the palate, with good fusion between the raspberry and blackberry fruit and oak. The oak-led flavors of coconut, chocolate, vanilla and herbs accent the rich blackberry fruits and black pepper. It is well-balanced and lush, with smooth, well-rounded tannins, and a long savory finish.
Casas del Bosque Carmenère is a soft, spicy red wine that goes brilliantly with spicy meat dishes. Try it with a lightly spiced lamb biryani, Indian curry, a Mexican molé, enjoy it with red meats and corn-based dishes, such as Chile’s favorite pastel de choclo (corn and meat pie) or barbequed rib-eye steaks, burgers and sausages. This Carmenere is really ripe and juicy, making it the perfect wine to go with rich tomato-based herbed dishes like spicy meatballs or baked eggplant. With its rich berry fruits and mocha flavors, Carmenere can be paired with dark chocolate, especially quality chocolate with a high cocoa content and a hint of chili pepper.
Carmenère grapes create a velvety, rich wine that is distinctly Chilean.
Here at the Jersey Shore you can find this wine at at Monmouth Bottle Shop located at 201 Monmouth Road in Oakhurst. Phone 732-531-3080.
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