An 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.