INsite Magazine

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Wine of the Week

Casa Diego Carmenere $7

The holidays are here, and we're all trying to come up with wines that appeal to everybody. This seems impossible until you consider some safe bets - Chilean Carmenere is one choice that people are finally discovering. Like its Bordelaise brethren - Merlot and Malbec - Carmenere originated in Bordeaux. It made its way to Chile in the 19th century, just as it lost popularity to Merlot in France and is hardly seen in any current Bordeaux blends.

The Carmenere plant can look similar to Merlot in the vineyard, so it was often confused for Merlot until genetic testing in the 1990s revealed that it was a different varietal. Lo and behold, if you treat the grape like Carmenere, and not like "Chilean Merlot" as it was first called, you get a much better wine - Carmenere, like a Cabernet Sauvignon, ripens later than Merlot. The wine produced is Carmen red in color (rather than the blue tones of Merlot). It has more structured acidity than the typical Merlot, without the tannic weight of Cabernet Sauvignon, so it can appeal to both camps. Sometimes the acidity has tart cherry notes like a Garnacha, but with a deeper mid-palate expression of woody tannins like a Malbec.

Carmenere has become "Chile's Varietal," like Malbec is for Argentina and Zinfandel for California. It ranges from $5 to $50 per bottle. Casa Diego, from the Maule Valley in Chile, makes two excellent Carmenere wines, one at $7 per bottle and a Reserva at $11. Both have great fruit acids and a nose that includes red currants with hints of vanilla and graphite. The Reserva has more time in oak to give it a little more complexity and depth and a fuller palate, but either would be perfect for any home-for-the-holidays scenario. Enjoy!

- Daniel Eddy, Gainesville Wine Pairing Examiner and Store Mananger at Gator Spirits, Westgate Plaza

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Blogger brushwood said...

I'll have to pick up a bottle of this and try it out. I've had some Chilean wines that I really liked but never heard of Carmenere until today.

December 1, 2009 at 12:56 PM  

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