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Perez Cruz Limited Edition Carmenere 2012
The rocky soils and temperate microclimate of the region create exceptional growing conditions. Additionally, the cooling influences of the Andes mountain air and the Pacic Ocean breezes allow for slow ripening conditions that lead to a fresh, vibrant fruit expression, natural acidity, and soft tannins.
The Maipo Valley is Chile’s most famous wine region. Set in the country’s Central Valley, it is warm and quite dry, often necessitating the use of irrigation. The soils here tend to be high in salinity and low in potassium, which can present viticultural challenges, but new vineyard management techniques have been implemented to combat these issues.
The climate in Maipo is best-suited for ripe, full-bodied reds like Cabernet Sauvignon (the region’s most widely planted grape), Merlot, Syrah, and Carmenère, originally a Bordeaux variety which has found a successful home in Chile. White wines are also produced, especially near the cooler coast, from Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.
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.