Los Vascos Grande Reserve Carmenere 2016
Los Vascos wines blend Lafite tradition with the unique terroir of Chile to create elegant wines that bring exceptional to the everyday. The vision of Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) to expand their estates took them to South America in 1988, becoming the first French viticultural investment in modern Chile. Since then, a comprehensive modernization and investment program has been undertaken, oriented towards the production of fine wine using and adapting the viticultural experiences of Bordeaux and other areas where Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) is present.
Los Vascos is located in Valley de Caneten (Colchagua), a closed valley in the central zone of Chile, approximately 25 miles from the sea. The valley provides a perfect microclimate for high quality viticulture, with Northern exposure to lands uncontaminated by airborne or water-borne pollutants. Daily on-shore winds provide temperature changes between 68-77°F, for optimum maturation of the grapes. With 1581 acres, it is one of the largest vineyards in the central Colchagua valley, at the foot of Mount Cañeten.
Between 1989 and 1995 Winemaker Marcelo Gallardo studied at Universidad Austral de Chile graduating with a degree in Agronomy engineering. Marcelo continued his education studying and graduating from Universidad de Chile between 1998 and 1999 with a degree in Enology and Viticulture in Santiago. In 1999, Marcelo worked as an assistant winemaker at Viña Santa Rita in the Maipo Valley, and interned at Bodega Sandeman, Oporto-Duero in Portugal. After Portugal he performed a harvest at Domain Jandeau in Burgundy, France. Working for Viña Los Vascos since 2000, he became the Chief Winemaker and Production Manager in 2006. Marcelo routinely visits the other Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite) properties to bring L’Esprit Lafite to Viña Los Vascos. In addition, he collaborates on the latest developments in technology from top Universities and vineyards.
Well-regarded for intense and exceptionally high quality red wines, the Colchagua Valley is situated in the southern part of Chile’s Rapel Valley, with many of the best vineyards lying in the foothills of the Coastal Range.
Heavy French investment and cutting-edge technology in both the vineyard and the winery has been a boon to the local viticultural industry, which already laid claim to ancient vines and a textbook Mediterranean climate.
The warm, dry growing season in the Colchagua Valley favors robust reds made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, Malbec and Syrah—in fact, some of Chile’s very best are made here. A small amount of good white wine is produced from Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
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.
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.
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.