Category Archives: Carménère

Viña Pargua Anka 2012 Red Blend

Maipo Valley, Chile; 14.4% ABV
Produced and Bottled by Viña Pargua Ltda. Paine, Santiago, Chile
$5 at the San Diego – Downtown, CA, store on 4 November


Oh, how I wanted to like thee given the nice label, online MSRP, grape makeup and some decent prior vintage ratings from Wine Enthusiast. This wine reads very sweet to me and if you blindfolded me, I’d guess it were a California-designated Red Blend heavy on Central California fruit. According to the label, while it is 100% estate-grown fruit, shares that it’s 60% Cab, 16% Cab Franc, 10% Merlot, 7% Carmenere, 5% Syrah, 2% Petit Verdot.

I get a lot of raisin and prune on the nose (which is admittedly not my favorite) and dried fruit (as noted) predominantly through the palate. The Cab Franc comes through heavily through the middle and finish of the wine with some pretty grippy tannins if that is your thing and they’re present even after 3 days of being open. This one does stay together and you don’t have to finish it in one night. I suppose for a bigger wine with mid-heavy mouthfeel that is cab-dominated, some would enjoy it but it’s not for me – between the nose and a predominant flavor in the palate, there’s something that’s off-putting but I think it’s the nose carrying through.

It’s not without its virtues if you like what it brings to the table but for me, this one’s a thumbs down.


Echeverria 2011 Carmenere “Classic Collection”

Curico Valley, Chile; 13.5% ABV
$3 at the Richmond, CA, store on 1 April

Echeverria_2011_CarmenereOn the last day of the sale (for those stores open on Easter), EHL commented on this wine:

Upon opening, the wine was a brilliant dark ruby-purple color, with a muted nose that didn’t open for about an hour, whereupon it revealed notes of blackberry, black cherry, tar, leather and espresso in both aroma and flavor.

There was also a vegetal element, that distinctly reminded me of the RLT Cabs. In fact, this wine really tastes remarkably similar to the those smooth and memorable South African Cabs.

I very much enjoyed this medium/full-bodied wine, that was nicely balanced with fruit, acid and tannins working in harmony, providing an inviting sweet and savory contrast. As to the finish, it was lingering and marked by a peppery, spicy aftertaste.

For the price of “Two-Buck Chuck,” you can get this substantive wine which received a “Silver Medal and Best Buy” designation from the Beverage Tasting Institute. While not a stunner, the ’11 Echeverria Carmenere delivers a lot of punch for the pennies and is perfect for a daily quaffer.

I picked up a case… and there are still about 10 cases left, which even post-sale presents quite the bargain!

I agree!  I finally got to my bottle, probably too late for me to go back and get more, sale or not.  My notes were: Full-bodied, darker boysenberry / blackberry, plum, darker red cherries, green bell pepper, a little tar / black pepper and caramelly earth.  Slightly rough straight out of the decanter, but smooths out very nicely in the glass.  Very nice now, after about 75 minutes in a decanter, but should hold on fine for the next year or two.

The saved half bottle (stoppered in a 375ml bottle with very little air) was, if anything, better.  It still needed about 45 minutes in the glass, but then was darker and richer than on the first night.

Anakena 2006 Single Vineyard Carménère

Rapel Valley, Chile; 14% ABV
$3 at the Richmond, CA, store on 3 April

Anakena_2006_CarmenereThis wine looked quite promising: older, nice label, in a heavy bottle.  Indeed, it’s pretty good from first pour.  However, I thought it needed about 75 minutes in a decanter to open up to show softly textured flavors of red cherries, red and black raspberries (almost blackberry) with some complexities of tar, and a little green bell pepper,  (The green bell pepper element lessens distinctly as the wine airs.)  The wine is nicely elegant and subtly complex, and is an outstanding value at $3.  However, it strikes me as perfectly aged, so don’t wait long to drink it.

The next day, the second half (stoppered in a 375ml bottle with very little air) was at least as good.  The fruit was more rich and dark, slightly more tarry.  If you don’t mind the green bell pepper component, which I know is anathema to some readers, this stuff is terrific for the price.  Again, just drink it pretty soon.

Echeverria 2006 Reserva

65% Syrah, 35% Carménère; 14.5% ABV
Central Valley, Chile
$3 at the Richmond, CA, store on 1 April

Echeverria_2006_Reserva_SyrCarmThis wine seemed promising at first pour, but needed 2 hours in a decanter and a little time in the glass to fully air.  Then, in a supple body, it showed flavors of tangy red (slightly purple) plum, less ripe boysenberry, red cherries, and, unfortunately, a rough sort of green bell pepper / sulfur edge.  Probably that roughness indicates the wine is already past its prime, so don’t wait to drink this.  I’ll see what the next day brings.

The next day, the saved single-glass screw-cap bottle, with a little more air, gave similar flavors to the previous day, but much better integrated and with more complexity and depth: dark red plum and cherries, blackberry / tar, and maybe redder blueberry.   Unfortunately, that rough green bell pepper / sulfur edge is still there somewhat, detracting from what would otherwise be a very enjoyable wine.  I found this blend of Syrah and Carménère very interesting, and I bet a younger example of this wine would be quite delicious.  This one is probably a little too old, but it could be quite satisfying for the low price.

Santa Rita 2011 Carménère “120”

Central Valley, Chile; 13.5% ABV
$5 at the Oakland, CA, store on 20 Jan

IMG_1386[1]Right away, the nose and palate show cherry candy fruit and strong bell pepper / sulfur / acrid rubber.  Over the next two hours or so in a decanter, the fruit does gain in darkness and depth, showing typical Carménère blackberry, raspberry liqueur and creosote, in a sweetly ripe fuller body.  However, it is still badly marred by the same off flavors that never really air out.  This unfortunately is a Thumbs Down.

The next evening, the saved half bottle (stoppered with very little air) didn’t smell so objectionable, but the palate was perhaps worse, tasting more like blackened rubber.  So, um, no change in the judgement.

Punto Niño 2011 Carménère Reserva

Colchagua Valley, Chile; 14% ABV;
from LaRoche Chile; imported by Wilson Daniels
$6 at the Richmond, CA, store on 26 Nov

PuntoNino_2011_CarmResAs regular readers know, I have a compulsion to get most of the Carménères that come through the GO.  This one doesn’t satisfy my fetish for the eccentricities of the grape, but it is really delicious.

The wine is not bad from first pour, but it has some roughness, especially on the finish, that needs about an hour in a decanter to smooth out.  And, then, how it does!  The richly textured , full-bodied fruit shows dark flavors of boysenberry / blackberry, plum, earthy chocolate, black raspberry, likely complexities of cranberry and dark roses / violets, and no green bell pepper (not that there’s anything wrong with that, IMO).  It could perhaps use a little more acid, but it is by no means flabby.  It doesn’t strike me as getting too old soon, but there’s no reason to wait to drink it.  Fans of rich, ripe, California wines, try this one!  It is not “jammy,” but I doubt it will disappoint anyone.

Montemar 2010 Carmenérè

Curico Valley, Chile; 13.5% ABV
produced and bottled by Aresti Chile Wine, Ltd.
$3 at the Richmond, CA, store on 12 Sept

Montemar_2010_CarmenereMuch like the Montemar 2010 Harmonia blend, this wine is very good for the very low price.  In fact, I thought it was excellent, quite tasty and lacking what I thought were the flaws of the Harmonia.

This wine also needed about 90 minutes in a decanter to really open up, showing ripe, smooth, balanced, and nicely structured flavors of cherry and boysenberry / blackberry, with only a little of the typical Carmenérè tar / creosote and raspberry liqueur.  Really, it was very nearly like a Cabernet Sauvignon, and a darn good one for $3.

The second half, saved in a 375ml bottle stoppered with very little air, was even better.  The fruit was darker, more forward, and more complex: tarry blackberry, dark plum, black raspberry, creosote, earth / prune, still balanced with a sharp red raspberry finish.  Amazing for $3.


2012 Gaucho Andino Maule Valley Carmenere, Chile $4.99

Silverdale, WA    13.5% alc.    (Purchased on 5/14/14)

IMG_1496Clear medium garnet; lots of red fruit in the nose…raspberry, cherry and tart red plum.  In the mouth it’s tangy underripe raspberry, some cranberry, pie cherry, black and green peppercorn and a certain menthol mintiness in the flavors.  Fairly high acidity and medium tannins that show particularly in the finish.  Not a complex wine by any means, but tasty enough for burgers and simple faire…and a decent summer red.

Chono 2009 Reserva Carmenère – Syrah

Elqui Valley, Chile; 14.5% ABV
65% Carmenére, 35% Syrah
imported by North Berkeley Imports
$3 at the Geary St, San Francisco, store on 24 Nov.  Also at the Richmond store.

2009_Chono_CarmSyrAs someone who’s become fond of Carmenère from those I’ve gotten almost entirely from the GO, I grabbed this right away.  (There was also a Chono Reserva Pinot Noir, but I almost always dislike Chilean Pinot, so I left it.)

The wine started out a bit reserved, but with a rough, gritty texture that promised to air into a complex and delicious wine.  For my taste at least, that promise was not quite fulfilled.  After about 80 minutes of air, it showed nice flavors of medium-ripe blackberry, dark purple plum, and boysenberry, with the typical Carmenère notes of green bell pepper and creosote, becoming darker, riper, smoother, and a little liqueur-like as it continued to air.  (Except perhaps for some underlying red fruit and tannin, I’m not that sure what the Syrah adds.)  However, the wine never totally integrated and the finish was still a little rough, even in the half bottle that I saved with a stopper and very little air.  So, for this low price, I’ll make this Thumbs Up, but unfortunately not a very enthusiastic one.

Update: I left the rest of the half bottle sitting open on the table for a day, thinking it was not very interesting.  However, I tasted it before pouring it down the sink, and it was actually pretty good, maybe more on the acid side, but nicely aired and integrated, without the rough finish.  Probably, instead of using a half bottle and a stopper, I should have just kept it in the original bottle and put a cork in the top.

2009 MontGras 200 Reserva Cabernet Sauvignon/Carmenere, Chile $4.99

Silverdale, WA    14.5% alc.    (Purchased on 10/5/13)

IMG_1219Back label says this wine is a celebration of Chile’s 200th anniversary as a sovereign and independent nation.  It’s 70% Cabernet from the Maipo Valley and 30% Carmenere from the Colchagua Valley aged for eight months in French and American oak.

Dark sludge on the bottom of the cork and inside the neck of the bottle.  Pours nearly opaque deep purple/ruby with a youthful lilac rim.  Seductive, aromatic nose of dark fruit (plum and blackberry), some mint and black coffee with just a hint of tart pie cherry and some smoked meat qualities.  With sweet fruit and oak on the front of the tongue, this red is hugely tannic, but perfectly balanced with excellent acidity.  Gives a coarse, rough feel in the mouth, but the flavors are wonderful: expresso, dark chocolate, cigar box cedar, mint, earth, blackberry, dark plum and cherry.  There’s just a touch of green character in the finish, but it doesn’t detract in the least.

I tend to prefer Argentinian reds to those from Chile, but this may be the best Chilean red I’ve ever had (in my limited Chilean red experience).  Should benefit greatly from cellaring.  Appears to be very limited in quantity.