If you aren’t familiar with carménère, that’s ok. You’re probably not alone. For a varietal that has spent much of the latter part of the 20th century in obscurity, and often confused for Merlot, it’s making a nice comeback in some rather familiar places. To get you caught up on who is doing some nice work with this classic old world varietal, and to get some further background on carménère, check out last year’s carménère round up.
The first thing you notice about Apaltagua’s latest offering is the dark, rich plum color, that is indicative of the varietal……and rather indicative of highly extracted Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. Indeed this value priced Chilean seems rich and heavily extracted in both appearance and nose. The alcohol volume is relatively high compared to old-world examples of carménère. At 14%, the wine isn’t lacking in power and structure. Apaltagua sources their carménère from the Apalta Valley in Colchagua. As we’ve stated here before, if you haven’t committed Colchagua to memory yet, we recommend that you add it to your list of trusted appellations.
On the nose, the wine offers up green tea and cedar with hints of dark berry and plum. The nose is appealing and hardy, but does hint at being tannic and acidic, as the cedary notes can overwhelm the nasal cavity. On the palate the wine starts out a bit earthy and herbaceous, like an old world claret, but soon the tannins and alcohol take over.
This wine has a wonderful mouth-feel in the mid-palate, one that I really enjoyed, but the finish disappoints a bit. It feels a bit overwrought with the tannins in the finish, in particular, leaving a lingering, yet slightly astringent aftertaste. Makes me wonder what a little more experience with this grape will bring Apaltagua, and what their blends utilizing carménère have in store. The fruit is certainly there, but it gets masked a bit, and can leave the wine seeming somewhat angular and unripened.
For the money, you won’t find many wines with this level of power, extraction and complexity. The wine offers a lot of character, but some of it’s traits can be off-putting, and aren’t for the faint of heart. I enjoyed the wine, but then I can appreciate the style. I offered a glass to my wife, the ultimate acid-test, and she did not care for it. If you have some experience with carménère, and you like a heartier full-bodied style, I recommend that you try the Apaltagua Reserva, particularly with something grilled!
Find Apaltagua Carménère Reserva with Snooth
Disclosure: This wine was received as a sample.