Carmenere Was Mistaken For Merlot??


History Of Carmenere

Carménère (“car-men-nair”) is a medium-bodied red wine that originated in Bordeaux, France and now grows almost only in Chile. The wine is treasured for its supple red-and-black berry flavors (in a similar style to Merlot) For years, all these French Wine experts were totally confused and they thought Chile was growing fantastic Merlot when it fact it turned out to be Carmenere…..AND I WILL NEVER GET THAT.. WHO WERE THESE PEOPLE?? Originally, Carménère was thought to be Merlot when it was first transplanted into Chile. This case of mistaken identity is perhaps what saved Carménère from extinction when Phylloxera devastated the vineyards of Bordeaux in the late 1800’s. Here’s why I don’t get it. If maybe the average wine consumer was going over to Chile to taste these wines, I would be more forgiving but NOT Wine Experts from France. Carmenere is not like ANY MERLOT Flavor Profile from any place in the World!! It has such strong aromas and flavors of Vegetal Notes like Bell Pepper and Green Herbs and Green Peppercorns. Now maybe Cabernet Franc would be understandable but MERLOT that tastes and smells like a Fajita??? It actually took a DNA Study in 1994 to finally identify the true identity of what the French thought was Merlot was actually Carmenere. Lets talk about one from my favorite producers in Chile.

Casas Del Bosque

I reviewed their Pinot Noir from the Casablanca Valley from this winery and it was too fruity tutti and not my style, however I love this winery in general including their amazing Sauvignon Blanc. The big advantage this winery has for me is ALL the fruit are from Vineyard Estates and all decisions about irrigation and Sugar Levels and when to harvest are made by them. This is not a Manufactured Wine. All their grapes are hand harvested.

Chile Wine Map

As you can see by the Map, Chile is long and Narrow. To the West we have the Andes Mountains and to the East we have the Pacific Ocean. The Broader area of the Colchagua Valley is divided into the Cahcapoal Valley and The Rapel Valley. In that Central Valley area it does extend to the west but a lot of the best vineyards are towards the Pacific and is a total Mediterranean Climate. In the North It is HOT and in the South it is Cold but in the Center just right, especially for Carmenere. Long Sunny Days with chillier nights and Carmenere is the last grape of all to ripen. 

2015 Casas Del Bosque

Carmenere Reserva, Rapel Valley

Casa Carm Front

Casa Carm Rear

Casa Carm Glass 1

100% Carmenere hand harvested. Aged in French Oak Barrels for 10 Months. Color is a deep, dark garnet with a tinge of crimson. The nose ( my nose in a million years would never have even thought of Merlot ) Picked up Boysenberry, Black Cherry, Raspberry And I am talking Fresh Seeds and All Jalapeno Pepper, Toasty Well Done Bacon. A Textbook Carmenere to me. On the palate, Juicy but not Velvety like their 14.5% Pinot Noir (Same Alcohol in this wine), a distinct very ripe boysenberry and wild berry flavors all with a streak of lead pencil, earth, and yes, Jalapeno Pepper, earthy notes, toasted oak ending with a Sweet Greenness of Tobacco and hints of Peppercorn Spice. In plain English, this wine was balanced and really enjoyable to the last drop. Was it the most amazing Carmenere of my life?…NO but a really benchmark example of the Chilean Version of this Grape and I will ditto James Suckling Review on this one as it is a solid 90 Point Wine out of 100.

The Summary

I can’t tell you if you like Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon from Bordeaux or New World that you will like Chilean Carmenere. Some people don’t like Green Notes and  Veggies in their Red Wine but I personally Live for that flavor profile and aromas. If you want to experiment especially with a Nice Carne Asada or maybe even Fajitas, and taste a Carmenere, at $14.99 for an Estate Bottled Reserva, this is the one to try. I loved it. I still can’t fathom that even a Level One Sommelier or WSET Student would ever have mistaken this for Merlot. Salud!!

Grape-fully yours, Larry

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