I had the chance to run through a series of eight Chilean wines via an online wine tasting hosted by Wines of Chile. All of the wines were either 100% Carmenere or a blend with Cab or Carignan. The tasting featured eight Carmenere wines each introduced by eight young, dynamic winemakers, who took turns spotlighting their wine. We began with an attention-grabbing $10 treasure and finished up with a delicious $44 dollar Cab and Carmenere blend, with the majority of the wines falling under $20. The wine samples were shipped out prior to the tasting and presented in ascending order by price point. Here's the skinny...
If you are curious about the Carmenere grape, this is a value-priced low-risk wine to initiate the varietal adventure. The Santa Carolina starts off with hints of coffee, vanilla and tobacco on the nose and moves on to dark cherry and a touch of green pepper (a common characteristic of Carmenere) on the palate. It finishes up with a decent finish. This wine was the first in the line up and started us off on the right foot with a well-priced wine offering a solid flavor profile.
The Odfjell Armador Carmenere brings quite a bit of leather and tar on the nose right off the bat, followed up by dark fruit and an earthy component, finishes up with black pepper spice.
3. Viu Manent Carmenere Reserva 2007 (Chile) $14
The Viu Manent offers up a decent dose of green herb and bell pepper on the nose along with a dash of cherry. On the palate some chocolatey notes and dark fruit.
4. Cono Sur Vision Carmenere 2007 (Chile) $15
This wine brings a good bit of balance to the table, the tannins are available but not domineering. Lots of black pepper and black cherry in the profile. Ends well with a silk-driven finish.
5. Vina La Rosa La Capitana Carmenere Barrel Reserve 2006 (Chile) $17
This may have been my favorite wine of the line up. Starts off with blackberry and dark chocolate and finds delicious dusty cocoa powder by mid-palate, powerful tannins offer solid structure and can hold the ripe, dark fruit in place. Interesting layers of complexity keep your attention and the well-developed finish is both elegant and enduring.
6. Ventisquero Grey Carmenere 2007 (Chile) $25
An interesting mix of tobacco and blueberry are among the first impressions on the nose. The palate yields red fruit and spice along with bits of green pepper, perhaps a touch hot on the intake - could likely benefit from a bit of aeration.
7. Terra Andina Altos Carmenere - Carignan 2007 (Chile) $19
On the nose, stewed tomatoes mark the first impression, followed by blueberry and vanilla. Interesting to note that this wine is a blend of 60% Carmenere and 40% Carignan. The palate echoes the blueberry and ends with warm peppery spice.
8. Carmen Winemaker's Reserve Red 2004 (Chile) $44
This wine turns it up a notch, and it should since it adds between $20-30 dollars to most of the other wines in the series. To begin with this wine is a blend of 45% Cab and 25% Carmenere (with Syrah, Merlot and Petite Sirah filling in the gaps), you'll find more elegance and significant structure - the tannins have some turbo, but the layered fruit can compete and keep them in line. Plenty of mocha and vanilla on the nose followed up by dark, jammy fruit - cassis and plum on the palate, a medium to full finish.