100% Carménère [car-min-YEHR]
- Oh, Carmenere! What happened? You had such potential and there were such high expectations for you!
There’s no doubt that Chile hedged their bets on Carmenere doing well, but I think it almost turned into a “novelty grape”, much in the same way as Pinotage in South Africa. As much buzz as their was surrounding Carmenere (as recently as a few years ago), the hype seems to have fallen off, and none of Chiles plans for the grape seems to have come to fruition (at least that I’ve witnessed). Not that the Santa Ema “Barrel Select”Carmenere isn’t a decent wine; far from it in-fact, it more than over-delivers for the price, but it’s one of the few wineries that can boast this claim.
- Carmenere has quite the story behind it and quite the story behind it!
Clippings of Cabernet and Merlot vines were taken from Europe to South America in the 1800’s, to plant new vineyards and avoid the grape vine plague “Phylloxera” [Fill-lock-seh-rah] which almost wiped out their vineyards. What they didn’t know was that Carmenere had snuck along for the ride!
It wasn’t until as recent as 1994 when a French ampelographer (identifies and classifies grapevines for a living) discovered that what the Chileans thought was Merlot (and were labeling their wines as) was actually Carmenere!
- Since Carmenere is reputably quite a pain in the arse to grow, Bordeaux hasn’t been too hasty to replant it. Now the majority of Carmenere vines can be found throughout the vineyards of Chile.
- Make sure you check-out some of the other wines from Santa Ema, including (my favorite) their Amplus One, an intense Carmenere, Syrah, Carignan blend with excellent aging potential. It will totally change your mind about Chilean wine, and indeed Carmenere!
- The Santa Ema winery was established in 1917 by Italian immigrant Pedro Pavone-Voglino. It wasn’t until 1986 that Santa Ema began exporting their wines, and they are now in over 30 countires,
- The Santa Ema Carménère is often rated highly in the “Best Buy” category for magazines such as Wine Spectator and Wine Enthusiast.
- For more information, visit the Santa Ema website or Facebook (you might want to brush up on your Spanish though….).
- Many of the vineyards around the regions of Maipo and Cachapoal were planted in the 1800’s by the wealthy families of Chile as a symbol of status.
- It’s said that smog and dust from nearby the city of Santiago, is the largest detrimental factor to a large number of vineyards in Chile. This is a double-edged sword, as its close proximity to such a large city, enables the wines to reach the International market faster.
- Most of the vineyards in Cachapoal are planted to red grape vines, with Cabernet and Carmenere dominating.
- Chile is relatively isolated from the rest of the world with the Pacific Ocean to the West, Andes Mountains to the East , Atacama Desert to the North and Antarctica to the South. This has also kept vines safe from the previously discussed phylloxera pest.
- An easy rule to remember about Chile is the rule of 75%. Wines are legally required to bear a minimum of 75% of the grape variety listed on the label, a minimum of 75% of those grapes from the year listed, and 75% have to come from the region listed. It’s also worth noting that the term “Reserve” has no legal definition in Chile, similar to California.
Intense, dark-purple color. On the nose, black cherry, ripe blueberry and raspberry with tobacco. Medium-bodied on the palate, plum, raspberries, tobacco, green pepper, nice acidity, screaming for food! Impressively long finish, showing eucalyptus and sweet oak.
I’m recommending heartier dishes for the Santa Ema: Beef bourguignonne, heavier red-sauce pasta, casserole, duck, venison, veal, Portobello mushrooms and stronger-flavored cheeses.