Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Wine Blogging Wednesday #52: Value Reds from Chile

Welcome to Wine Blogging Wednesday #52, hosted by Tim from Cheap Wine Ratings. This month's theme is value reds from Chile. I rooted around in the closet and found the perfect wine: the 2005 Viña Cono Sur Carménère from Chile's Colchagua Valley. ($7.95, Chronicle Wine Cellar; available elsewhere for $6-$9)

This excellent QPR wine really helps you understand
Carménère's relationship to Bordeaux.

In the 19th century, vine cuttings were taken from Bordeaux and planted in Chile. They thought they were taking Merlot cuttings. But, it turns out that
more than 60% of the cuttings were actually Carménère. Merlot and Carménère leaves look quite similar, and the mistaken identity led to a problem for Chile's winemakers because the two grapes don't ripen at the same time. It wasn't until 1996 that the Carménère and Merlot were separated and it became possible to label bottles with one of these varieties.

In many ways, however, Carménère is ideally suited for Chile's growing conditions. It requires rich soil, not too much water, and a late harvest. When conditions are right, the wine produced is superb. This wine--which was well under $10--could have been mistaken for a simple Bordeaux in a blind tasting. It had herbaceous and cassis aromas and smooth, cassis flavors. There was a spicy kick at the end, and left a cool, menthol sensation in your mouth.

If you are wondering what food goes well with Carménère, my advice it to treat is as you would Merlot. We actually tried it with a zany pasta dish that involved a homemade pineapple salsa tossed with penne and slices of chili-rubbed flank steak. Yes, it's odd. But the citrus and herbal flavors of the salsa really worked with the Carménère, as did the rare flank steak.

After this experience, I'll definitely be trying out more Chilean wines in the future. Thanks to Tim for a great theme, and see you back for another year of Wine Blogging Wednesdays in January 2009.


7 comments:

Rob Bralow said...

Great post. Great to hear that you enjoyed the Carmenere and are interested in more Chilean wines.

The Wine Barbarian said...

Cono Sur makes a fine organic Cab/Carmenere blend as well. I bought it for my own contribution to WBW#52, but utterly failed in my attempt. Sigh.

I did finally get one posted (which between you and me, is one of the best Chileans you can buy for under $10!), as well as 5 others that served as a warmup round stretching back to last months WBW. Hey, I don't follow rules, I'm a barbarian. ;)

Dale Cruse said...

Pineapple salsa pasta? As much as I enjoy Carmenere, I'd rather hear about that zany dish!

Tim said...

Yay, another great Carmenere to add to the list. My "Chilean wines to try" list seems to be growing. Thanks for participating in this WBW.

john witherspoon said...

sounds good Dr D, nice write up

Jeff said...

Just in case any of your readers are looking for this wine, it has recently undergone a package change and is now in the "Bicycle Series" (has an old-fashioned bicycle on the label) and has a gold Stelvin cap. If you are looking at other Chilean wines, check out the Cousino Macul Antiguas Reserva Cab...another great bargain!

Dr. Debs said...

Thanks for all these comments. Welcome, Rob, and thanks for the heads up on the label change, Jeff. As for the pineapple salsa pasta thing, Dale, click over to the recipe. I think it will tell you all you need to know...