A Red That has ‘the Soul of the Old World’

A Red That has ‘the Soul of the Old World’

Carmenère, the Bordeaux grape that found a home in Chile

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The Carmenère story is worthy of a full-length book. This red grape, once a solid part of Bordeaux winemaking in the Médoc, was decimated by the insect plague that ruined all the vineyards of France in the late 19th century. Despite the deep color and spice that it added, Carmenère was always a finicky grape to grow, and it was largely abandoned when the vineyards were replanted. Thank goodness for immigration! Among the red wine grape cuttings brought to Chile were Merlot and Carmenère. It took a while to sort it all out, but Carmenère now stands on its own, sometimes magnificently. Today’s example will surely make Francophiles do a double-take. It has the soul of the old world with a special bouquet and generosity of flavor that is beguiling.

2014 Montes Alpha Carmenère, Colchagua Valley $25 srp

A dark red to violet color. This has a velvety cloak of a nose – satiny smooth and lush. (The price of admission is already paid in full!) With a unique bouquet of blackberry, plum, iodine and smokey incense, it has a luxuriousness that reminds me of a fine Margaux. Flavors are medium-bodied yet softly rich in texture. Creamy on the palate with rounded fruit suggesting berries, chocolate, mushroom and a touch of mint. With plenty of lively acidity and “bump” to keep it refreshing, it’s great now but can still come together further with short-term cellaring. Drink 2017-21. Superb value!

92/93 points

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Arturo Ciompi
Trained as a classical clarinetist and conductor, Arturo plied his trade for many years in New York, performing with the Orpheus Chamber Orchestra, New York City Opera, the American Symphony and countless chamber music groups. While living in Durham, Arturo became the wine manager at two iconic gourmet stores: Fowler’s in Durham and Southern Season in Chapel Hill. He had a wine spot on NPR in the ’90s and has been a continuously published wine journalist since 1997. He has won national awards for his work and is currently writing for Durham Magazine and its weekly blog, “Wine Wednesdays”. In addition, he loves teaching the clarinet. Read more on his website.