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Santa Carolina Reserva de Familia Carmenere 2012
A great match for Indian lamb curry, rack of lamb with rosemary and garlic.
From the time that he transplanted the first vines to the virgin Chilean landscape, an unmatched tradition of excellence in wine making began. From that day forward, the name Viña Santa Carolina became a symbol of excellence in winemaking, both in Chile and throughout the world. And the vineyards would remain for all time as a tribute to their enduring love.
The original wine cellar of Viña Santa Carolina is now a national monument and Santiago's only standing building constructed of cal y canto, a mixture of egg white and limestone that was once the city's trademark. Some of the original vinestocks are still yielding vintage wine today - a rare feat, credited to Chile's natural geographical protection from the phylloxera plague that has periodically ravaged the vineyards of France and California. Thus, Viña Santa Carolina's classic varietals boast some of the world's longest pedigrees.
Touching the Pacific in the west and stretching up into the Andes on its eastern side, the Rapel Valley is one of the more substantial fine red wine producing regions of Chile and contains both the Colchagua Valley in its south and west and the Cachapoal in its north and east. While it is recognized for its exceptional warm-climate reds, the region does produce some fine Pinot noir and Sauvignon blanc on its coastal side.
Some of the country’s finest Cabernet Sauvignon comes from the Rapel’s Andean foothills—with significant individualized smaller zones already identified. Soils here are mixtures of loam, clay, and sand; Cabernet Sauvignon, Carmenère, and Merlot are the most prolific varieties throughout the region.
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.