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Errazuriz Max Reserva Carmenere 2011
The Aconcagua River runs east from the charming costal town of Valparaiso and bisects the land creating the valley after which it was named. While alluvial soils predominate the Aconcagua Valey along its river throughout, its east-west flow creates drastically different conditions on each of its ends. Its western, seaside vineyards, with clay and stony soils upon gently rolling hills, produce cool-climate varieties such as Sauvignon Blanc, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. Its inner region is one of Chile’s hottest and produces some of its best red wines. Panquehue in the inner Aconcagua is the site of Chile’s first Syrah vines, planted in 1993.
Dark, full-bodied, and herbaceous with a spicy kick, Carménère has found great success in Chile, far from its birthplace of Bordeaux. Although Carménère once accompanied Malbec and Petit Verdot as a minor blending grape in Bordeaux, it is now virtually extinct there, though it has been thriving since the mid-nineteenth century in Chile. Originally mistaken for Merlot, it is now successful of its own accord and plantings continue to increase. It is bottled both on its own and as part of Bordeaux-inspired blends.
In the Glass
If not fully ripe, Carménère is often marked by a green, herbaceous character (think green bell pepper and green peppercorn), and expresses flavors of red berry and black pepper when just ripe. With additional hangtime at the end of harvest, it is reminiscent more of blackberry, blueberry, and dark plum, with rich and savory notes of chocolate, coffee, smoke, and soy sauce.
Carménère can easily overpower lighter fare, but makes a great match for a hearty steak or barbecued red meat. It can also work well with white meat when prepared with a richer sauce such as mole.
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.