Carmenere is a new and yummy wine friend. Before this tasting, I hadn't a clue. But, faintly, I was suspicious of the grape. Not as friendly as Argentina's front runner, Malbec, Carmenere is the exotic cousin that you're not sure you'll love or hate. Two bottles of the 8 were Chilean, but not carmenere (for guessing fun since the tasting was blind). 13 people were at the tasting and there was resounding agreement that all the wines were excellent quality, especially for the price. There were many murmurings that these Chilean wines were reminiscent of Bordeaux as an earthy temptress. The pairing of the evening was a fabulous slow cooked rosemary lamb roast with tamarind sauce, my STARS! Dark chocolate, later in that night, also won the audience as a pairing. One other characteristic of note was that the wines were all fairly short on the finish and ready to drink. Buy em cheap and chuck em down.
General notes on body, acidity and tannins of carmenere: Leaning to medium body, higher acid, medium tannins, all were dry.
Chilean Wine Tasting
Tasting Notes: (int = intensity)
1. Marquis Casa Concha, 2007, $25
Med int nose of plum, strawberries. Bouquet of leather, spice and a distinctive orange zest. Bitter cherry and tobacco dominates the palette, very drinkable.
2. Sibaris, 2007, $16
Very pomerol-esque, old worldish, med + nose of plum, roses, caramel, herbal notes and a slight stony quality. Med int raspberry, ash, plasticine and roses for the palette. Really complex wine, amazing value, please buy and try for yourself.
3. Natura, 2007, $16
Med int sweet oranges and strawberries on the nose. The orange thing was a quality I noted in a few of the bottles, almost likening to Nebbiolo's. Med int strawberry, tobacco mouthful. Quite lovely, really easy to drink, excellent value.
4. De Marino, 2007, $19
(specialty wine stores only) Med int earth, tobacco, strawberry nose. Cigarbox and cherry on the palette, only med acid for this one.
5. Cremashi Farletti, 2006, $17
Med int current, spice, plasticine, clovers on the nose, again, with the Old World complexity, very impressive. Med+ int spice, cinnamon, strawberry and plasticine on the palette. Lamb's best friend.
Cremashi does a shiraz that is purported to be an excellent buy at $16 as well.
6. Montes Alpha, Merlot, 2006, $33
Very big for a merlot, 14.5% alcohol will kick your ass into next month, but you will enjoy it anyway. Fruit forward, stewed strawberry nose, spice and cherry palate.
7. Chono, Carmenere/Syrah, $20
Very simple and subtle, blueberry, earthy nose. Spicy, tobacco, sweet cherry palate. Not my favourite of the night.
8. Terra Noble, Gran Reserva, Maule Valley, 2005, $35
This was supposed to be the winner of the night. As it turned out, it was good, however, surpassed in value for quality by many others. Distinctive orange, plasticine nose was present along with ripe cherries. Med+ palate of currents and oranges. Short, disappointing finish. Ho-hum.
All in all, these lovely Chileans are great with meat and will please any red wine lover as they are a part of the illustrious Cabernet family of grapes. I can't wait to see what carmenere plantings in other parts of the world do in the coming years. Chile is currently putting a lot of effort into honing carmenere into a tastier specimen through clone selection. Keep an eye on this grape.
Ps. A BC note - Go to Salt Tasting Room in Vancouver to taste Black Hills Winery's Carmenere, it's yummy as hell.