Carmenere: A Major Chilean Grape Varietal!

Carmenere! Usually when I suggest this grape to my red wine loving customers who visit the NYC wine stores I am a Sommelier at, I tend to get some pretty confused looks. This grape is a wonderful but not so well-known variety, that was originally planted in the Médoc region of Bordeaux, France. It produces deep red wines and is great when used for blending purposes. Today, it is a widely planted grape varietal grown in Chile , and is truly a great red I would absolutely recommend. Keep yourself warm this winter season, and curl up by the fire with a bottle of Carmenere and some chocolate covered strawberries. 

I recently participated in a fun Master Class led by Mark Angelillo, founder of Snooth. He walked us through a tasting of eleven different carmenere’s from Chile. The beauty of this tasting was to highlight the grape varietal and also show how versatile it is, when it comes to winemaking. Carmenere itself is a great red grape varietal that takes well to stainless steel and oak. Carmenere is food friendly (and dessert friendly) and should be on your list of wines to try this year!

The wines we tasted:

Cono Sur Bicicleta Carmenere Central Valley Chile 2015 $9

Casillero del Diablo Carmenere Reserva Central Valley Chile 2015 $10

Concha y Toro Serie Riberas Carmenere Gran Reserva Peumo 2014 $14

Los Vascos Carmenere Grande Reserve Colchagua Valley 2013 $17.99

Apaltagua Red Blend Colchagua Valley Envero 2014 $17.99

Casa Silva Los Lingues Vineyard Carmenere Colchagua Valley 2014 $20

Montes Alpha Carmenere Colchagua Valley 2013 $25

Viña Maquis Viola Carmenere 2010 $55

Purple Angel Colchagua Valley 2013 $66.99

House Cat Kiwi is a fan of Carmenere too!

Eleven wines is a lot, yes. Luckily for me I had my handy Coravin system to help me though this tasting and was able to open the Cono Sur Bicicleta Carmenere (screw cap wine) and “taste” with my coravin, the other wines, so I can save them for a later date. Not only is Carmenere a great grape to try, but as you can see above from the list, there are a variety of budget friendly prices. If you’re planning on adding some great reds to your holiday table this season, or want to add a new varietal to your cellar, carmenere is it!

My top 5 favorites from the tasting:

  1. Cono Sur Bicicleta- It’s inexpensive but delicious! Perfect when paired with an extra cheese pizza, topped with mushrooms and pepperoni (NY Style). 
  2. Concha Y Toro Serie Riberas– Price approachable with great tannins and a smooth body. Great as a gift, if you’re attending a holiday dinner, and also makes a great wine to have out for guests!
  3. Casa Silva Los Lingues Vineyards- A carmenere that will pair well with a broad range of dishes, making it perfect for a holiday potluck! Intense with ripe plum and black fruit notes, round tannins, and hints of tobacco.
  4. Montes Alpha- I really do love me some Montes Alpha! This well known wine, is the first premium wine from Chile, and I have been a big fan of the brand for quite some time. Price point wise this wine makes a great gift, and is quite elegant.
  5. Purple Angel- This wine represents a new dimension for carmenere, and is led by Montes Alpha (above). This wine has 8% Petit Verdot, and together with Carmenere it makes an excellent, seductive, purple fruit and spice driven wine. This wine is one you can drink now… but with age, it will still be beautiful!

Always remember, eat what you like and drink what you love. Please pair responsibly and happy holidays! 

Sara Lehman

About Sara Lehman

Sommelier, Private Chef, & Food and Wine Pairing Expert in NYC! Sara is a Wine Writer, Wine Ambassador, and Wine Consultant specializing in pairings, parties, entertaining and education.

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