The Dozen This Month Vol. 27 No. 10

The Dozen – Carménère, Anyone?

Assignment: Drink the Chilean red, read its Bordeaux history, take a guess.


Most wine reviews, or at least the lead-ins to them, are like mini-lectures – a few facts, a few observations, lots of opinions. But, what if, instead of a traditional mini-lecture, we turn to the other facet of virtual classroom education – the assignment?

Let’s start with the premise that many observers think that the grape Carménère will one day be to Chile what Malbec it to Argentina. What do you think?

So here’s the assignment: (1) Buy a bottle of Chilean Carménère, maybe one of the ones reviewed below, and drink it. Then buy another bottle of Chilean Carménère. Drink that one, too. (2) Read an online article about Carménère, including its history in Bordeaux. (3) If you’ve forgotten what a Chilean Cabernet Sauvignon tastes like, buy one and taste it as a refresher. (4) Answer these questions and report back:

  • What do you think of Carménère as a varietal?
  • What do you think of the grape’s Bordeaux background as a back story to hang a PR or advertising campaign on?
  • Should Carménère replace Cab Sauv as Chile’s national red variety?

There will not be a test, but all essays submitted will be marked. So now, Carms up first:

2020 Viña San Esteban “In Situ” Valle de Aconcagua Carménère Reserva ($17) – Quite nice, with good structure, dark cherries, and pleasant, slightly musty old barrel accents. Crisp.

2020 Luma Chequén Valle de Maipo Carménère Gran Reserva ($17) – Nicely linear structure with a mix of red and black fruits, some green herbal notes and firm tannins.

2020 Terra Noble “CA 2” Valle de Colchagua Costa Carménère ($17) – Very fragrant, with rounded, very fruity blackberries, a little “hot,” yet very enjoyable.

2021 Morandé “Vitis Única” Val de Maipo Carménère ($20) – Warm and generous with ripe blackberry flavors followed by a tangy red-fruit finish.

2020 Primus Alpalta Carménère ($21) – Good, firm, lightly extracted dark fruitiness with some savory notes and hints of licorice and dried herbs.

2020 Montes “Wings” Apalta Carménère ($55) – Beautiful, big and complex, with concentrated blackberry and cassis flavors as well as dried fruits and savory notes – a lot like a Left Bank Bordeaux.

And now the rest…

2022 Donnafugata “Sur Sur” Sicilia Grillo ($23) – A little like a Bordeaux blanc, with green aromas and flavors but with neutral whey notes.

2019 Château Reynier Bordeaux Superieur ($16) – A lean Bordeaux, light in body, light in fruit, with a lot of dried herbs.

2022 Aviana Vin de France Cabernet Sauvignon ($20) – A fruity Cab with cherry/berry flavors and some caramel notes.

2022 Aviana Portugal Red Blend ($20) – Nice light-cherry flavors, quite spicy, chewy tannins – a lot like a Sangiovese.

2021 Donnafugata “Bell’Assai” Vittoria Frappato ($30) – Very perfumed, light strawberry and rhubarb tastes with Sangiovese-like raspiness in the finish – light in body and color.

2020 Yering Station Yarra Valley Pinot Noir ($36) – Light and delicate with lots of cherry notes and a smooth finish.

Prices listed are generally SRP or from As more wineries are now shipping direct-to-consumer, check the winery website if you can’t find a bottle in your retail store. Check out Drizly to receive wine directly shipped to your doorstep.

Roger Morris writes about wine, food and travel for The World of Fine Wine, Drinks Business, Meininger's Wine Business International, Wine Enthusiast and other publications in the U.S. and Europe.

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