This past November brought with it many “National” wine varietal days to celebrate. The kick off began November 6 with National Merlot Day, included National Tempranillo (see article “Celebrating Tempranillo Day with Pedernales Cellars”) and National Zinfandel Day (see article “Celebrating Zinfandel Day with Seghesio”) along the way, and concluded on November 24 with Wines of Chile’s inaugural launching of National Carmenère Day. I really enjoy these national wine varietal days, especially ones that focus on lesser known grapes such as Tempranillo and Carmenère. Thankfully I received a media sample of Carmenère from Trinchero Family Estates PR division so I was ready to join the celebration!
If you are unfamiliar with Carmenère I will share a few details with you about this lovely grape. Carmenère is the national grape of Chile. You will recall I enjoyed several Carmenère wines when I attended the Wines of Chile tasting as a guest of Full Circle Wine Solutions in early November; see article “An Awesome Wines of Chile Tasting” to revisit those beautiful wines. Wines of Chile describes Carmenère:
Chile’s own signature grape, this red varietal disappeared from European vineyards in the mid-19th century and reappeared among Chile’s Merlot vines a hundred years later. The deepest, darkest, purplest of all red grapes needs a long growing season to reach its fullest potential. Rich in berry fruits and spice (think blackberries and black pepper), with smooth, well-rounded tannins, making this a very pleasing and easy to drink varietal. Enjoy it with red meats and corn-based dishes, such as Chile’s favorite pastel de choclo (corn and meat pie), or take advantage of its natural fruity spiciness and serve it up with Indian curry or a Mexican mole.
Carmen Gran Reserva 2011 Carmenère: This wine poured a vibrant garnet with orange highlights in the glass. It opened with brooding aromas of red fruit and spiced, followed by smoky tobacco, coffee, leather and a hint of sweet vanilla. It seduced the palate with dark cherries, plums, black berries and cranberries wrapped around a bold earthiness comprised of spice with paprika, licorice and an old cedar cigar box. It brought a smooth, rich, velvety mouth feel; complex with persistent flavors through the lingering finish. It was well balanced with round acidity and elegant tannins. If this grape is new to you and you enjoy Cabernet Franc you will love this wine! It was crafted from 94% Carmenère, 4% Carignan and 2% Tempranillo, creating a complex, smooth and sexy wine. The grapes were carefully selected and handpicked from Carmen’s vineyards in the hills of Apalta in the Colchagua Valley. The grapes underewent cold maceration for 7 days, fermented in stainless steel tanks, aged in French oak barrels for 10 months, then another 2 months in the bottle prior to release. It contained 14.3% alcohol. This wine drinks beautifully now and has an aging potential of 6-8 years. The BEST part of all is the delicious wine’s average price is only $16! Click here to find this wine. I highly recommend this wine!
Although all accounts suggested pairing this wine with beef or lamb, I chose to pair it with chicken fajitas; what can I say, I live in Texas. We ordered chicken fajitas and a small cup of white cheese queso from an outstanding neighborhood Tex-Mex restaurant called El Norte. It is a medium size joint with a delicious menu filled with all your Tex-Mex favorites. It is always busy and has been in business for a long time. Plus their white cheese queso is amazing!!! The wine was a perfect pairing for the meal. The meal really pulled out the paprika in the wine and the creaminess of the queso was well balanced with the acidity of the wine. It was a great dinner but for those of you who live in an area without real Tex-Mex pair the wine with beef or lamb! I would absolutely eat that meal with the Carmen Gran Reserva 2011 Carmenère again any day!!
Carmen, founded in 1850, is the oldest winery in Chile. From Carmen’s web site:
The rediscovery of Carmenère in 1994 at one of Viña Carmen’s vineyards in the Alto Maipo valley has become a historical milestone for the world’s wine-making industry. For years, Carmenère was a variety thought to have been extinct after having been infected by the phylloxera plague in the mid-19th Century. Once the variety was unearthed, Carmen became the driving force behind the development of Carmenère in Chile and launched its first variety bottle in 1996: blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and labeled as a Grande Vidure.
Carmen owns vineyards in Chile’s best wine producing regions. The Apalta Valley is a region that produces the highest quality wines and is ideal for Carmenère. The warm climate, with temperatures that are high by day and moderate by night, allows the grape to ripen while maintain a good level of acidity. The high level of daily temperature variation is also vital for the wines’ pigmentation and color.”
My Song Selection: The song I have chosen to pair with Carmen Gran Reserva 2011 Carmenère is Cruisin by Smokey Robinson. It does not get much smoother than Smokey Robinson. This song is smooth and relaxed yet full of flavor; just like the wine. I don’t know about you but I can listen to the smooth sounds of Smokey Robinson for hours…while sippin the Carmen Gran Reserva 2011 Carmenère.
Get your own bottle of Carmen Reserva 2011 Carmenère and let me know what song you would pair with it. Cheers!