Wines of Chile: Exploring Carmenere



By Kori ~ November 10th, 2009.

Lineup for the Wines of Chile online tastingCarmenere, a red varietal originally found in the Bordeaux region of France, disappeared from European vineyards almost completely in the mid-19th century. Today, Carmenere is known as Chile’s signature grape, having been discovered in that country in 1994 among vines that were previously thought to be Merlot. It is a deeply colored red grape that seems to thrive in Chile’s Mediterranean climate with sunny days and dramatically cooler nights. Grown in the right conditions, Carmenere has the ability to produce very fine wines that exhibit the finesse of Merlot and the structure of Cabernet Sauvignon. A representative from Wines of Chile referred to Carmenere as “Cab in silk pajamas.”

Last week, we had the pleasure to take part in an online tasting hosted by Wines of Chile. Eight Chilean winemakers convened in Santiago, Chile, to talk about their wines via video conference to wine bloggers across the United States.

The presenting winemakers included:

This group of winemakers was a fun and lively group. They were more than willing to answer questions and share personal stories on top of discussing their own wines and their love of Carmenere in general.

Kori and John participating in the Wines of Chile online tastingIn addition to tasting wines, I thoroughly enjoy it when I have the opportunity to visit with winemakers and kick the dirt in the vineyards. While my first choice would be to visit in person, I am thankful for the technology that allowed me (and my fellow bloggers) to visit with winemakers on another continent. One of these days I hope to be able to visit Chile so that I can complete the experience and kick the dirt in the vineyards, as well as meet some of these talented winemakers in person.

My favorite wine of the tasting was the 2008 Viña La Rosa ‘La Capitana’ Carmenere from the Cachapoal Valley. It was bigger, bolder, and more complex than the others. Rounding out my top three were the 2007 Viu Manent Carmenere Reserva and the 2004 Carmen Wine Maker’s Reserve Red.

If you have not ever tasted Carmenere, I encourage you to give it a try.

Here are the wines we tasted, listed in my personal order of preference:

2008 Viña La Rosa ‘La Capitana’ Carmenere (Cachapoal Valley, Chile): 100% Carmenere. Oak and alcohol come through on the nose but it’s not oaky on the palate. Instead, it boasts dark chocolate covered raspberry flavors. Bigger, bolder, and more complex than the others. Medium-bodied with medium tannins. Smooth and well-balanced with a long finish.

Quality: 4 stars (out of 5)

QPR: 5 bangs for your buck (out of 5)

Suggested Retail Price: $18

2007 Viu Manent Carmenere Reserva (Colchagua Valley, Chile): 100% Carmenere. Tons of green peppers, even a hint of jalapeño, on the nose. Ripe red fruits and some oak on the palate. Medium-bodied with medium tannins and a long finish.

Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)

QPR: 4 bangs for your buck (out of 5)

Suggested Retail Price: $14

2004 Carmen Wine Maker’s Reserve Red (Maipo Valley, Chile): 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 20% Carmenere, 20% Petite Sirah, and 10% Merlot. Has a gorgeous nose. Aromas and flavors of dark fruits, spice, and chocolate. Full-bodied with medium to high tannins and a long, smooth finish. A big, bold wine. The Cab really shows through in this one.

Quality: 3.5 stars (out of 5)

QPR: 1 bang for your buck (out of 5)

Suggested Retail Price: $44

2007 Cono Sur Vision Carmenere (Colchagua Valley, Chile): 85% Carmenere, 9% Cabernet Sauvignon, and 6% Syrah. Cono Sur means Southern Cone (i.e. the tip of South America). Smoked meats and black pepper on the nose. Good acidity but also getting some cherry cough syrup action on the palate.

Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)

QPR: 2 bangs for your buck (out of 5)

Suggested Retail Price: $15

2007 Odjfell Armador Carmenere (Colchagua and Maipo Valleys, Chile): 100% Carmenere. Pine needle and black cherry aromas. Medium-bodied with low tannins and some spice notes on the finish.

Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)

QPR: 2 bangs for your buck (out of 5)

Suggested Retail Price: $13

2007 Ventisquero Grey Carmenere (Maipo Valley, Chile): 85% Carmenere, 7.5% Syrah, and 7.5% Cabernet Sauvignon. Burnt crème and a little barnyard on the nose. Also getting syrupy red fruits and chocolate on the palate, and some bitter, pine needle notes on finish. Full-bodied with medium tannins.

Quality: 3 stars (out of 5)

QPR: 1 bang for your buck (out of 5)

Suggested Retail Price: $25

2007 Santa Carolina Reserva Carmenere (Rapel Valley, Chile): 100% Carmenere. Red fruits, coffee, and lots of oak. Medium-bodied with low tannins. A bit of a bitter finish.

Quality: 2.5 stars (out of 5)

QPR: NR (not recommended)

Suggested Retail Price: $10

2007 Terra Andina Altos Carmenere – Carignan (Central Valley, Chile): 60% Carmenere, 40% Carignan. Stewed tomatoes and sweaty gym socks on the nose. Raspberries, blueberries, and green pepper on the palate. Medium-bodied with medium tannins. Didn’t get a lot from this wine, the finish trails off.

Quality: 2.5 stars (out of 5)

QPR: NR (not recommended)

Suggested Retail Price: $18.99

Full Disclosure: We received these wines as samples.


Filed under: Carmenere, Chilean Wine, Red Wine, Wine Activities/Events, Wines NOT To Buy (1 & 2 Star), Wines Over $25, Wines Under $15, Wines Under $20, Wines Under $25

Reader's Comments

  1. Lupe | November 12th, 2009 at 12:37 pm

    Viña La Rosa La Capitana Carmenere is from Cachapoal Valley, not from Colchagua Valley

  2. Kori | November 12th, 2009 at 2:18 pm

    Lupe,
    Thank you for the clarification. The tasting sheet I received from Wines of Chile listed it as the Colchagua Valley. I have updated the post to reflect the Cachapoal Valley. Thanks again!

  3. Lupe | November 13th, 2009 at 7:57 am

    Happy to help! and glad that you like La Capitana :)

  4. Wines of Chile» Blog Archive » Carmenere Goes Multi-Media! | November 13th, 2009 at 9:43 am

    [...] Peeps: Wines of Chile: Wines of Chile: Exploring Carmenere [...]

  5. Photo Series: Mind Your Own Business « hZ Stands For Hector Zarate | June 4th, 2010 at 6:56 pm

    [...] delightful Carmeneres, condors and one of the biggest telescopes on Earth, Chile is also the home place of a sparkling [...]