I love the story of carmenère, the lost grape of Bordeaux rediscovered in Chile after it was thought to have disappeared from our planet. When I first heard about it, I was entranced by the magical story and wanted to celebrate this grape and make it one of my staple wines.
But not long after learning about carmenère and tasting a number of them I found myself avoiding it. Why? Because too often it’s not produced well, particularly when it comes to low-cost bottles. Carmenère tends to give off a strong green pepper aroma and flavor when the grapes are harvested before they’re fully ripe. And while a hint of that is OK, I came across so many bottles of carmenère where that characteristic overpowered everything else that I just started avoiding it. In fact, when this bottle showed up as a sample I wasn’t looking forward to tasting it — but I prematurely misjudged it.
When done well, carmenère is a fabulous wine, with rich fruit flavors, interesting spices and plenty of complexity. This one from Santa Carolina is a great example of carmenère done right.
The nose is pretty approachable, offering rich fruit and spice aromas like plum, black cherry, vanilla, caramel and cinnamon. It’s harmoniously balanced and simply beautiful. It’s a similar story on the palate, where this wine serves up plenty of ripe black cherry, blackberry and plum flavors without becoming a fruit bomb. The fruit flavors are layered with spices like cinnamon and coffee. The acidity is good and the mouthfeel nice. This is an easy carmenère to love.
Wine: Santa Carolina, Reserva de Familia
Average price: $19.00
Disclosure: This wine was received as a media sample.
Find Santa Carolina, Reserva de Familia Carmenère with Snooth