When I was a kid, I was fascinated by Chile for a few reasons: first, I found it really fun to say, and it found its way into many of my jokes in middle school (“Ah, you’re cold? You must be from Chile!”). The geography of the country was also compelling—the country is 4300 kilometers (2670 miles) long (New York to Los Angeles is 2789 miles) but only 350 km (217 mi) at it’s widest point (the distance from New York to Boston).
Growing up in Detroit, where the automobile rules, I always wanted to drive from one end to the other, for no other reason than to say that I did (apparently, that would be impressive and would likely take at least a month or so to complete).
As an adult, I maintained this fascination with Chile, although I have yet to visit (it is high on my bucket list, though), and now with this blog, the wines from the country have piqued my interest. Thus, when I was asked by the friendly folks at Snooth.com to participate in a Carménère master class this past week, I readily agreed.
Just about every wine geek worth his or her salt knows that the main variety in Chile, Carménère, was first thought to be Merlot when it was brought to the country in the 1850s from France. They also know that the grape, once a main contributor in Bordeaux but now relatively rare there, thrives in the hot and dry Central Valley in Chile.
Not as many wine geeks, perhaps, would also know that there is a pocket of Carménère in the Veneto region of Northern Italy, championed by famed Soave producer, Inama, a bottle of which was also included in the tasting.
In all we tasted eleven bottles over the course of the hour (it was actually a bit longer than that since we had to wait for a certain someone to log on…).
2014 Cono Sur Bicicleta Carménère Chile: Retail $9. 85% Carmenère, 15% Otros Tintos. Ripe red fruit with a bit of cinnamon. Nice and bright with surprising depth. This really over delivers for this price point. Very Good to Outstanding. 88-90 Points.
2015 Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Carménère Chile: Retail $10. 100% Carménère. Dark and imposing in the glass with dark fruit predominant (black berry, cherry, and currant). Really fantastic fruit on the palate—I know I said that the Cono Sur over-delivered, but this is making it a trend. Concha y Toro might just be the top value brand in the world. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2015 Casas del Bosque Carménère Reserva Rapel Valley Chile: Retail $11. Peppery and spicy with loads of fruit, smokiness, and just a touch of greenness. Refined but also rustic, which is a wonderful contradiction. Very rich and even syrupy, this is a real fruit salad of a wine, even a fruit cake as there is a certain perceived sweetness with all that fruit. 90K cases. Big. Shiraz like (winemaker is an Aussie). Very Good. 87-89 Points.
2014 Concha y Toro Serie Riberas Gran Reserva Carménère D.O. Peumo Ribera del Cachapoal Chile: Retail $14. 95% Carménère, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon. A new series for the winery all the fruit comes from vineyards close to rivers, hence the name. Dusty, oaky, spicy and wonderful nose. Fruit is well-balanced with several levels of depth, leading to a lingering finish. Very Nice. Outstanding. 91-93 Points.
2013 Los Vascos Grande Reseve Carménère Colchuaga Valley Chile: Retail $18. 500K+ Total cases. In partnership with Lafite. Herbal and eucalyptus with an odd chemical aspect to the nose. On the palate, though, completely different and noticeable rich, but that funkiness persists and is a bit off-putting. Not rated.
2014 Apaltagua Envero Gran Reserva Carménère Colchuagua Valley Chile: Retail $18. 90% Carménère, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Lighter, brighter red fruit, a lot of cherry, even Jolly Rancher kind of cherry. Bright and fruity, this is a really nice expression. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2014 Casa Silva Carménère Los Lingus Vineyard Colchagua Valley Chile: Retail $20. Kind of the “pioneers” of Cars in the central valley. Dark in the glass, with a perhaps a “classic” car nose: dark red fruit, green pepper, and a bit of funk. Rich fruit and solid all the way through but not much tannin to speak of. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2012 Inama Oratorio di San Lorenzo Colli Berici Carménère Riserva Veneto, Italy: Retail $33. Whoa. The nose here is outstanding, wonderfully balanced fruit with violet and earth. Whoa. Rich and full with plenty of structure, this is fantastic and yet still young. Plenty of tannin suggests a long life ahead. Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
2014 Montes Alpha Carménère Colchagua Valley Chile: Retail $25. 90% Carménère, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. Dry farmed, believes in Fung Shui (plays Gregorian Chants for the wine during fermentation and aging). Deep dark color, and a wonderful nose of a melange of red fruit. Whoa. There is a reason this is one of the leaders in Chile. And for this price? Outstanding. 93-95 Points.
2010 Maquis Viola Colchuagua Valley Chile: Retail $55. 85% Carménère, 15% Cabernet Franc. 850 cases produced. Smoky and subtle fruit. 14 months in oak and considerable time in bottle before release. “Liquid smoke” or “Charred oak” predominate, but this is lacking a bit in weight. Not as rich as the others. Very Good to Outstanding. 89-91 Points.
2013 Purple Angel by Montes Colchuagua Valley Chile: Retail $67. 92% Carménère, 8% Petit Verdot. Big heavy bottle (not a fan). Recommend an hour decant. Shy on the nose (didn’t decant) this is big without being overbearing—even without the decant this is gorgeous (am a fan). Outstanding. 94-96 Points.