Carmenere is one of Chile’s adopted varieties. Carmanere presents as a softer version of cabernet sauvignon, lacking its tannic structure and complexity. This wine is fairly simple in expression. Herbal, soft tannins and sweet fruited, it provides uncritical but pleasant drinking. Rating: Acceptable. Abv: not recorded. Price: $20s.
The Valle de Leyda is located near the Pacific Ocean and 95 kilometres west of Santiago in Chile. Purchased because I taste very few Chilean pinot noirs and MW studies resolutely demand otherwise, this unfortunately proved a rather average wine. In the glass, there are aromas of tomato bush, stems and strawberry jam. The palate has powdery tannins and is a bit flabby with medium length. Rating: Acceptable. Abv: N/A. Price: $20s.
I see only a light offering of Chilean wine in Australia. Neither a benchmark (think France, Italy, Germany) nor different enough from local offerings to carve out a niche perhaps. Chilean Carmenere I think however can present a delicious, very well priced BBQ wine, and lacks the sharp edges and clunky acid that can be found in some Australian reds under $20. Here are two Chilean wines recently tasted.
Luis Felipe Edwards Rosé 2016This rosé is made from cabernet sauvignon and merlot grown in Chile’s Central Valley. Salmon in colour, it has a simple aroma that reminds of rose water. The palate is medium bodied and the alcohol a little separate. Pleasant enough. (Alc: 13%, Region: Central Valley, Chile, Rating: Acceptable, Drink: now, Price: <$20, Tasted: September, 2017)
Viña Maipo Vitral Reserva Carmenere 2015This is an enjoyable Carmenere from Viña Maipo. The grapes are grown in the Rapel Valley, 150km or so south of Santiago. It has slightly rustic aromas of leather, tobacco and game. The palate is balanced, more refined in impression and enjoyable. (Abv: 13.5%, Region: Rapel Valley, Chile, Rating: Good, Drink: now to 2020, Price: about $20, Tasted: September, 2017)
This is the second more recent vintage of a Los Vascos that has been disappointing. I have some of this producer’s earlier wines in my cellar such was my faith at the time. The 2013 has diffuse and spiky aromatics that are simple in expression. The palate is medium bodied and improves with air. A disappointing wine that lacks interest for a producer of this calibre. (Alc: 14%, Region: Colchagua, Chile, Rating: Acceptable, Drink: now, Tasted: Jan, 2017)
Other vintages reviewed:
Here is a roundup of a few South American wines tasted abroad. These wines continue to impress. Most are available in Australia, with the honourable exception of the first one. Naturally, of course, that is the wine that I would most wish to buy.
Clos de los Siete Mendoza 2011, Argentina
This is another good release from Clos de Los Siete by Michel Rolland. A blend of 56% malbec, 14% merlot, 12% cabernet sauvignon, 12% syrah, 4% cabernet franc and 2% petit verdot, it is perhaps more simply summarised by identifying the red grape varieties that are not in the blend. Its aromatics remind of dark cherry, licorice and well handled cedar and spice characters. A ripe impression is given, without crossing the line. The palate is balanced, full bodied, with smooth and rounded length. It is filled in by dark cherry and plum characters. A delicious wine.
Rating: Good to Very Good, Abv: 14.5%, Price: C$25, Vendors: http://www.wine-searcher.com/, Website: http://www.closdelossiete.com/en/, Tasted: 2015
Valle Las Acequias “Malbec Oak” Mendoza 2010. Argentina
A 100% malbec from 85 year old wines is a good start. The wine though is described as “Malbec Oak 2010”, which sends a rather odd signal. The back label continues the theme, describing its flavour as “Strong tannins, sweet and gentle thanks to the contact with the Oak“. That’s a capital “O” for oak. So, should the consumer expect a lot of oak in this wine? Should I be worried if it didn’t say oak? There is pride in this oak. In the glass, for the record, the oak was handled well. The rest of the wine though is a bit “dry reddish”, by which I mean it is pleasant enough although it could have been any old red in the glass. Aromatics of blackberry jam, and a balanced palate and medium length complete the picture.
Rating: Good, Abv: 13.5%, Price: C$24, Vendors: http://www.wine-searcher.com/, Website: n/a, Tasted: 2015
Los Vascos Grand Reserve Colchagua 2011, Chile
I found this a bit of a disappointing Los Vascos Grand Reserve from the Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) stable, an estate I otherwise hold in high regard. It has that typical Chilean tomato stalk nose (terroir, oak regime or something else, I am not sure?), supplemented in this case by a pongy, sweaty character. The palate is balanced, if somewhat formless. Only an average wine, I am afraid.
Rating: Acceptable, Abv: 14%, Price: C$24, Vendors: http://www.wine-searcher.com/, Website: http://www.lafite.com/fr/les-domaines/vina-los-vascos/, Tasted: 2015
Norton Privada Mendoza 2011, Argentina
Another blend from a South American producer, which suits me rather well. This time malbec, merlot and cabernet sauvignon. This is one of those good well made wines, although the alcohol on the label (as opposed to its impression in the glass) is getting up there. Aromatics of blackberry, ripe plums and plum jam. A palate that is balanced and a textural fruit driven finish. A good wine.
Everyone’s making sauvignon blanc these days. From Chile’s Central Valley, this budget priced sauvignon blanc resembles neither an offering from New Zealand nor France. Sui generis perhaps. It presents strangely enough almost like an off dry riesling. Its aromatics remind of lemon and lime, with lifted floral notes. The palate tastes off dry and has balanced lemon and lime flavours. This is super easy to drink, and I think the sugar/acid balance works. I didn’t see the residual sugar levels for this vintage, but the 2013 vintage has 5g/l; enough to be perceptible.
I profess that I am not particularly experienced with the carmenere grape variety. Tasted blind, this wine had a very particular and unusual aroma that I associate with some Chilean wines ie I guessed the wine was from Chile. A winemaker friend said the aroma was one of incredibly youthful, but simple, fruit – to me, it was almost bubblegum like – perhaps it’s the oak used. Anyway onto the wine: this wine had an aroma of sour plums, socks, chewing gum and intense herbs. A palate of blackfruits, tannin and noticeable acidity. Not my style I’m afraid. 77 points.
Tasted blind, this wine had an aroma of pears and stones, with noticeable acidity and a slight tinny note on the palate. Ok, but not really a style I enjoy. 80 points.