T.H. CarmenereHere’s a velvety-smooth wine to toast Chile’s Fiestas Patrias in style or bring comforting warmth to a cool evening. Carmenère has a special association with Chile, because back in 1994, when swathes of vines were discovered among what Chilean growers had thought were Merlot, it was a variety that had been almost forgotten. In fact, though you can find some in China, Italy and France, the vast majority of the Carmenère vineyards in the world are in Chile. And T.H. Carmenere 2015 is a very nice example.

Carmenère grapes
Cluster of Carmenère grapes

Tasting note: T.H. Carmenere 2015, Peumo, Cachapoal Valley, 14% ABV

This wine is a deep purple colour. It has an enticing nose, with nicely ripe black fruit, like blackberries, black cherries and plums, blueberries, the classic note of green pepper that denotes one of the varieties that come from Bordeaux, and sweet baking spices, including vanilla from the oak-ageing. In the mouth, it is dry and full-bodied, with velvety smooth tannins, fresh acidity and high alcohol. The fruitiness comes through in the mouth, but is less sweet than the nose suggests and there is a hint of minerality. The finish lingers pleasingly.

Winemaking

Carmenère needs warm temperatures to ripen fully, which is why when they replanted the vineyards in Bordeaux after the phylloxera disaster, they didn’t bother to replant Carmenère – nine times out of ten it didn’t ripen. Chile has a far more reliably warm climate than Bordeaux and the grapes for this T.H. Carmenere are from the Peumo area of Cachapoal, which has warm, sunny weather during the grape ripening period, so the grapes ripen fully. However, breezes blow in  from the Pacific Ocean on summer afternoons and these enable the grapes to better conserve their acidity, resulting in a wine with fresher flavours and aromas. One of the problems with Carmenère is that it can lack acidity and be a bit boring, which is not the case with this wine.

The winemaking involved extracting the maximum colour, aroma, flavours and tannins by macerating the grapes before and after the fermentation and pumping the wine over the cap of skins that forms at the top of the tank three to four times a day.  This is why the wine has such a deep colour, velvety tannins and nice aromas. Not all Carmenère wines are as deeply-coloured as this. The wine was aged in French oak for 12 months, which will have lent it a smoother, more velvety mouthfeel and those subtle notes of baking spices and vanilla.

Undurraga’s website

Food pairing

This deep-coloured red wine pairs well with all the typical fare served for Chile’s Fiestas Patriaschoripanes (sausages in bread rolls) and empanadas (meat-filled pasties) included. Try it with any red meat dish, including casseroles and barbecues and other highly flavoured dishes. It will also hold its own with Chilli con carne (or Chilli sin carne), lasagne or a rich vegetarian bake with a cheese topping.

Wherever you are in the world and whatever you are doing this Monday, 18 September, I hope you have the chance to raise a glass of something nice in honour of Chile’s Independence Day celebration. Cheers and Felices Fiestas!

Other posts

Carmenère – Chile’s miraculous red wine find

Fiestas Patrias: BBB Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon

Fiestas patrias: choosing the right chorizo

Weekend wine: Veramonte Red blend 2016

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