T oday we are celebrating the 20th anniversary of the discovery that the Merlot in Chile wasn’t Merlot but was the lost grape. Wines of Chile group celebrated with a tweet tasting fest (hash tag #carmenereday) featuring 8 wines. Unfortunately we only received 6 of them so we are enjoying those six. (Wouldn’t you know it that the one $55 bottle was one of the missing ones and the other was one of the most award winning wines of the year). The 2 we missed were the Maquis Viola ($55) and the Santa Carolina Reserva ($22). Those seemed to get good tweets. I guess we’ll take their word for it.
Some comments about Carménère. Dennis says this is one of the best food wines. Dan has always commented that he likes Carménère just because it’s the lost grape. It’s a great story and Chilean vineyards have spent the last 20 years learning how to better produce this now they know it’s not Merlot will get better as the vintners learn more about how to cultivate Carménère.
Here’s our wine notes per wine but cutting to the chase our favorite wine of the night was the Los Vascos… but that in itself is a bit of a disservice in that we would drink every one of these wines on any given night. These are a salute to the Lost Grape.
Master Sommelier Fred Dexheimer says “the best is yet to come. This variety keeps getting better with more experience.”
We opened these wines an hour before the tasting started. The Twitter fest went from 9-10 but we continue on. Those guys seemed to be in a hurry. We are taking our time. These wines have been open now for 2 hours and some are turning out magnificent.
After being open for 2 hours the Los Vascos is starting to have some lush flavors.
One of the lingering Twitter discussions is who really discovered the Lost Grape. Some say it was a traveling Frenchman who tested the grapes and discovered they were not Merlot. The question then would be whose vineyard he was testing to find the Carmenere. Our comment is “who cares.” We are just glad they found it.
Here’s our notes:
Here are the wines presented (click to see more):
- Maquis Carménère 2011
- Carmen Gran Reserva Carménère 2011
- Santa Rita Medalla Real Carménère 2009
- Montgras Carménère
- Los Vascos Carménère Grande Reserve 2012
- Montes Alpha Carménère
Here are the detailed wine notes:
Maquis Carménère 2011 |Colchagua Valley, Chile
Teri says it has a black cherry nose. Dan agrees and adds that it smells brighter than it tastes. Very dry, especially on the finish. Dennis adds that it has restrained fruit. Starts to open with food. We are enjoying it with some Genoa Salami. The wine notes say it was 100% hand picked and sorted. Fermented in stainless steel then 50% of the wine was aged for 10 months in second and third use French Oak barrels and 50% in stainless steel tanks. The label features a piece of silver jewelry used as an adornment by the Mapuches, who are local indigenous Chileans. Color is very dark. Dan later adds it has some dark fruit that comes out with some food.
After it opened a bit and after several tastes, some tobacco notes start to show on the finish.
The price point is $20. Teri gives a thumbs down on the price. Dennis gives it a thumbs up. Dan gives it a sideways (on the fence).
Winery Website: Vina Maquis
Carmen Gran Reserva Carménère 2011 |Apalta (Colchagua Valley), Chile
The tasting notes say it’s a dense and concentrated wine with an intense dark purple color. The nose is rich and very honest to the variety showing ripe berries, sweet spices, tobacco and earthy aromas. Soft touches of spicy anise and paprika add complexity. ….Small percentages of Carignan and Tempranillo have been included to refresh the mouthfeel and increase its vibrancy.
Dennis says it has a nice silky texture.
Teri says its a bit astringent at the finish, like a crab apple. Dan likes the dark dense fruit at the start but then it hits you with that crap apple mouthfeel that Teri mentioned. Dennis says it has dense deep black fruit… blackberries, black plums…
Their website says “Founded in 1850, Carmen was Chile’s first wine producer; landmarks in its history include the rediscovery of the Carmenère grape variety in its vineyards, an event in the study of wine that marked a turning point in the national and international wine industry and made Carmen the force behind Carmenére in Chile.”
Since Spanish brought grapes in many years before that we aren’t sure what they mean “First producer.” But it is obvious that they are instrumental in establishing the “Lost Grape.”
Wines of Chile says this wine pairs delightfully “with swiss chard, kale and cabbage.” Hmmmm. Planting the seeds for Thanksgiving. Price point on this is $18.
Winery Website: Vina Carmen
Santa Rita Medalla Real Carménère 2009 | Colchagua Valley, Chile
This is Dan’s best so far. Starts off and stays even through the finish. The finish though has a hint of wood. Not much to the nose, he adds. “I get a bit of alcohol.” Goes nicely with salami.
Dennis says “mmmmmm. Another full bodied, dry and chewy wine that lingers on the tongue. Definitely has legs when you swirl. Its got 14.1 per cent alcohol.”
Teri says it’s her favorite one so far and adds she tasted cranberry. Dennis Tweeted: Goes down smoothly, powerful black fruit and robust tannins. “Love this wine.” (But that was before he tasted the Los Vascos).
$18 is the price point.
Winery Website: Santa Rita
Montgras Carménère | Colchagua Valley, Chile
Dan was real excited to see this wine on the list. This is Dan’s go-to wine. He’s bought many a bottle at Wine World. The price point is $12 so he’s glad he’s beating that price at Wine World at $10.99. This is medium-bodied wine that has lots of fruit up front, nice smooth … er.. wine. Dan can’t describe the flavors but loves them. Well, on second taste he says it’s boysenberry. “It makes my mouth happy. I think I’ll have another pour.” Dennis Tweeted him saying “he loves it from start to finish.”
Teri says this is a lovely wine and tastes raisins. Hmmmm. Dan thinks that’s an interesting flavor. He might agree.
Dennis says “it’s the bargain of the night.”
Winery Website: Mont Gras
Los Vascos Carménère Grande Reserve 2012 | Colchagua Valley, Chile
Dennis says it’s a pretty purple when you look through it. Dan says consistent from start to finish… maybe some tobacco on the long finish. He says this actually beats the Montgras for the complexity and the different flavor but doesn’t beat it on price ($18). Dennis says he “can see the European influence on this wine. Complex fruit, good tannins, balanced acidity. Perfect for turkey.” There you go, ladies and gentlemen, the perfect red wine for Thanksgiving.
Teri says… “what he said.” Price point is $18.
Winery: Baron de Rothschild
Montes Alpha Carménère | Colchagua Valley, Chile
Sea foam aroma. Got nice body. The finish is dry on the roof of the mouth. The color is gorgeous on this and all the wines tonight. Has a clean taste. Loses something in the finish. But when you sample it with food it improves.
Winery Website: Montes