On Thursday night, I participated in the ‘Discover Carmenere: The Lost Grape’ virtual live tasting event featuring Wines of Chile. For those new to the format, these live tasting events provide an opportunity for a group of wine enthusiasts (bloggers) to taste the same wines and share their tasting notes/thoughts virtually via a live streaming feed and Twitter www.Twitter.com/DrinkWhatULike . These virtual tastings attract an interesting group of bloggers across the US. Thursday night’s session included @1WineDude, @WineHarlots, @mmWine, @AtlantaWineGuy, along with a handful of other Twitterers.
One notable difference with the format of this particular tasting event was the live video stream – eight wine makers gathered in Santiago, Chile to discuss their wines, and answer questions from the blogger participants. This streaming video tasting format, along with the conference call, coupled with the live Twitter feed made for an ‘interesting,’ fast-paced tasting experience.
Joining me for the tasting were my wife and a couple of our friends, Rob and Jen Cordosi (8 bottles was a tad too much for me for a weeknight). The tasting covered a diverse range of wines throughout the various Chilean wine regions – ranging in price from just $10/bottle up to $45/bottle. Since the focus of the tasting was Carmenere – the wines ranged from 100% Carmenere, to blends containing just 25% Carmenere.
The line up for the evening included the following Chilean wines (Carmenere):
- 2007 Santa Carolina Reserva
- 2007 Odfjell Armador
- 2007 Viu Manent Reserva
- 2007 Cono Sur Vision
- 2008 Vina La Rosa Barrel Reserve
- 2007 Ventisquero Grey
- 2007 Terra Andina- Altos
- 2004 Carmen Winemaker’s Reserve
A short Carmenere history lesson… The Carmenere grape, a member of the Cabernet family, was originally planted in the Medoc region of Bordeaux, France. Today, this varietal is rarely found in France, but plays a central role in the Chilean wine market.
Of the eight Chilean wines we tasted, a few of my standouts include:
The ‘Awkward, but Loveable’ Wine of the Night Award goes to… 2007 Terra Andina – Altos. $18.99/bottle. This was an awkward, but interesting wine. I can only describe this wine the following analogy – remember back in high school there was always that one girl that was a bit awkward/borderline weird/unusual, but attractive at the same time? This wine was similar to that girl – awkward, but likeable. I picked up strong blueberry liqueur components throughout, along with hints of sauerkraut. I really like blueberries and saurkraut, just not together. That’s the awkward part – I liked this wine even with these two distinctly different components together.
My favorite 100% Carmenere of the tasting was the Vina La Rosa 2008 La Capitana Carmenere Barrel Reserve. At just $18/bottle, this wine offers an excellent quality-to-price ratio. Dark ruby in the glass, this wine had a full nose of caramel, blueberry, blackberry, and violets with a cocoa finish. Light tannins. I finished off this bottle the night after the tasting and I picked up a smoky aroma that wasn’t as predominant the night I opened it, along with a bacon fat component throughout. Overall, for the money, this was definitely my favorite of the tasting.
My favorite Carmenere blend of the tasting was the Carmen Wine Maker’s 2004 Reserve Red. A blend of 50% Cabernet Sauvignon, 25% Carmenere, and 25% Petit Syrah. Dark ruby color, with a bouquet of vanilla tapioca, spice with heavy floral aromas. In the mouth, this wine was on the sweet side with flavors of raspberry and mint – if there were such a thing as a raspberry-chocolate covered Peppermint Patty this would be it. At $44/bottle, this wine is definitely at the high-end of the Chilean price-point scale that I’m used to. Well balanced, paired well with hanger steak and chimichurri sauce that my wife prepared for the tasting.
The ‘Priced Right to Drink A Bottle Alone’ Wine of the Night award goes to…
Santa Carolina 2008 Reserva Carmenere. At just $10/bottle this wine was the most economically priced of the tasting – a great Wednesday night wine to pair with ‘The Ultimate Fighter.’ Light Ruby in color, this wine had a simple, straight-forward nose of red fruit, tomato sauce, cinnamon, with slight hints of coffee. Too much oak initially – needed some time to air out.
I enjoyed this tasting as it provided me a great opportunity to try a wide range of Carmenere-based wines, and learn a little more about the varietal.
A big THANK YOU to Andrea Davidoff of RFBinder, Wines of Chile, and to each of the wine makers – who were such good sports during the live video portion of the tasting – for making this tasting possible.
Disclaimer: I received each of these wines as samples to participate in this event.