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Chono Carmenere Reserva Maipo Valley 2006

Carmenere from Chile
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    Winemaker Notes

    This Carménère is grown on the alluvial plains of the river Maipo, a high-altitude region in the shadow of the breathtaking Andes. Grapes are handpicked, and 60 percent of the wine is aged for 10 months in barrel. Lush and round on the palate, with plenty of baking spice and touches of tobacco in its perfume. Wonderfully supple and ripe; great mouthfeel.

    Critical Acclaim

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    Chono
    Chono, Chile
    Image of winery
    Chono is the cutting edge of Chilean winemaking—a micro-estate that produces world-class wines from some of the most unique terroirs in the country. Led by two of South America's leading winemakers and enologists, Alvaro Espinoza and Juan Carlos Faúndez, Chono too is the future of the Chilean wine industry, as producers move away their quantity-over-quality past to focus on Chile's terroir strengths.

    The heart of Chono is in the Maipo Valley, the starting point of Chilean viticulture in the late 18th century. It is here where enterprising winemakers brought back vine cuttings from Bordeaux to plant in the foothills of the Andes Mountains, on alluvial soils not too different from those on the banks of the Dordogne. Chono's home base is the eastern side of the Maipo Valley called Isla de Maipo. Here the soils are sandy; vineyards sit between 1,800 and 2,000 feet above sea level; and temperatures are warmer than in more coastal areas, moderated by the cooling winds from the Andes. Red grapes such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Syrah, not to mention Chile's signature grape, Carmenère, thrive here.

    Photo Courtesy of North Berkeley Wine Imports.

    One of South America’s most important wine-producing countries, Chile is a reliable source of both budget-friendly wines and premium bottlings. Spanish settlers, Juan Jufre and Diego Garcia de Cáceres, most likely brought Vitis vinifera (Europe’s wine producing vine species) to the Central Valley of Chile some time in the 1550s. But Chile’s modern wine industry is largely the result of heavy investment from the 1990s.

    Long and narrow, Chile is geographically isolated, bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Andes Mountains to the east and the Atacama desert to the north. These natural borders allowed Chile to avoid the disastrous phylloxera infestation in the late 1800s and as a result, vines are often planted on their own rootstock rather than grafted (as is the case in much of the wine producing world).

    Chile’s vineyards vary widely in climate and soil type from north to south. The Coquimbo region in the far north contains the Elqui and Limari Valleys, where minimal rainfall and intense sunlight are offset by chilly breezes from the Humboldt Current. While historically focused solely on Pisco production, today this area finds success with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The Aconcagua region contains the eponymous Aconcagua Valley—hot and dry and home to full-bodied red wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot—as well as Casablanca Valley and San Antonio Valley, which focus on Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The Central Valley is home to the Maipo, Rapel, Curicó and Maule Valleys, which produce a wide variety of red and white wines. Maipo in particular is known for Carmenère, Chile’s unofficial signature grape. In the up-and-coming southern regions of Bio Bio and Itata make excellent Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.

    Carmenere

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    Dark, full-bodied and herbaceous with a spicy kick, Carménère found great success with its move to Chile in the mid-nineteenth century. Far from its birthplace of Bordeaux, Carménère once accompanied Malbec and Petit Verdot as a minor blending grape there. But the variety went a bit undercover, impressing wine lovers until 1994 when many plantings previously thought to be Merlot, were profiled as Carménère. Regardless of what vine variety it actually was, these have proven successful and plantings continue to increase.

    In the Glass

    Carménère can express a bit of herbaceous character or black pepper but in warm climates or with additional hangtime before harvest, it makes wines reminiscent of blackberry, blueberry and dark plum, with rich and savory notes of chocolate, coffee, smoke and soy sauce.

    Perfect Pairings

    Carménère makes a great match for a hearty steak or barbecued red meat. It can also work well with white meat when prepared with a mole sauce or spice rub.

    Sommelier Secret

    Perhaps Carménère’s herbal character can be explained in part by familial relations—due to the strange nature of grapevine breeding, Carménère is both a progeny and a great-grandchild of the similarly flavored Cabernet Franc.

    NBI500621_2006 Item# 100877