Try something new, have a crack at carmenere!

montes purple angelAn upcoming holiday to South America has spurred an interest in Chilean and Argentinian wine in preparation for the trip.  Also on the to-do list is buying the obligatory Lonely Planet Guide, worrying about exchange rates (the only time I really do) and the inevitable discussion of how many bags we are taking (1).  The star Argentinian wine Malbec is grown in Australia and fairly familiar to us, the Chilean hero Carmenere is not however, and a majority of the exports from Chile are sent to the US and UK.

Carmenere is a grape that thrives in Chile, driven to supposed extinction in France by the phylloxera plague that destroyed up to 90% of Europe’s grape vines in the late 19th century. Carmenere was grown in Bordeaux producing deep red wines and also used as a mix in blends. As the story goes the damage caused to the wine industry in Europe by the destructive phylloxera aphid caused a wave of wine makers to make the journey to Chile (and other places) in search of work.  Some cuttings of carmenere were enroute in ships while the aphid did its dirty work and as such survived.  These vines were left unidentified until the 1990’s when an interest was taken in the varieties in Chile, often growing wild,  generally considered to be Merlot.

In a prior article  (Afghan Food Challenge) we discussed the matching of a Montes Limited Selection 2011 (a carmenere blend) with Afghan food and the thread of spice in the wine that connected beautifully with the spicy food.  Google carmenere and spicy food and you will get a plethora of spicy food matching suggestions.  Montes also make the Purple Angel which is about 97% carmenere and a step up in price.  Tasting notes suggest chocolate, coffee, spice, and blackberry.  This is a beautiful wine and quite different to anything we produce in Australia.  A full bodied, full flavour profile that starts with ripe fruit and then segues into a spice symphony that lingers on the palate.

Casa Lapostolle at the high end make Clos Apalta that won Wine Spectator’s wine of the year back in 2008 for their 2005 vintage.  I cannot find this wine here and therefore it is on my tasting list for the trip.  It is reputed to be one of the best examples of carmenere made in Chile.

I am sure our northern hemisphere friends can make further suggestions on Chilean drops; whether they are available in Australia is another thing.  Anyway seek out some carmenere if you are up for something a little different, or impress your friends and match it with a spicy dish for a perfect wine food match.

Author: Neal

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59 comments

  1. Had a bottle of 2008 Santa Ema Amplus last week. Outstanding! We get a bunch of carmenere in Canada – love it. And the Rhone lover above should definitely try as I’m a Rhone guy myself. The Montes Alpha Angel is a bit steep but in most vintages beautifully crafted too. Have fun.

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  2. Carmenere is delicious!!! I had the opportunity to try the 2008 Casa Lapostolle Clos Alpalta and let me tell you that you will be amazed if you can find it. The winery might have some left. If you can bring it back home definitely do say and lay it down for a few years. Great Wine!!!

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  3. BIG Carmenere fan here and I happen to have a Purple Angel waiting for me in my cellar that was given to me as a gift. Popping that cork any day now….I swear.
    Keep an eye out for Argentina’s Torrontes [white] and Bonarda; a rustic red in the vein of my beloved Carmenere. Heck even Uruguay’s Tanat is worthy.
    Salud!

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  4. Chilean wine offers such fantastic value and Carmenère is my favourite red from Chile. Here in the UK, both the Casa Silva and Tabali Reserve Carmenère (both Colchagua Valley) are great wines for under a tenner.

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  5. My Bride had the Purple Angel 2006 and raved about it. She surprised me with a bottle of it, when she returned from her mini-vacation. I am waiting for the right dinner and occasion to try it myself. I had to write about the wine second-hand. Enjoy your trip.

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  6. What a funand informative blog! I just enjoy trying new wines. I have enjoyed exploring your blog and will be back. Have a great trip to South America! Thanks for taking time to like a couple of my posts.

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  7. I can’t recall having a carmenere, but I’ll find one right away. I’m generally a great fan of Chilean and Argentinean wines. and I appreciate your educating me about this grape! (And, for what it’s worth, I’ve always been pleased with the Australian malbecs that I’ve tried.)

    This is, by the way, just a great wine blog. I love the attitude: very informed, yet delightfully cheeky! Thank you!

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  8. Being an ex-pat living in Brazil, we see quite a bit of Carmenere around, every supermarket has it, all imported from Chile. Strong flavours, goes well with BBQ in my opinion.
    Thanks for stopping over at my place, appreciated.

    AV

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  9. Thanks for visiting my work at theillustratedwine.wordpress.com and I loved this post — I am a HUGE fan of Carmenere! All that great herbaceousness. Nice to find fellow travelers. Just had a lovely and affordable one last night: Chilean Koyle ‘Reserva’ 2011. Yum!
    Cheers to you guys!

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  10. But no one has mentioned Concha y Toro! I drank bottles and cases of Concha y Toro in my day and they make a wonderful carmenere. I think it won something. Sometime. But a good value and a great wine.

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