"I do things I never should do, I drink much more than I ought to drink…"

by Katie Pizzuto on November 11, 2009

in carmenere,Chile,Wine

It’s hard to be taken seriously by winemakers when fellow bloggers are drowning you out, requesting marital statuses, ages and favorite sexual positions. OK, the last one wasn’t exactly accurate, but 5 wines into the online Wines of Chile tasting, I was seriously doubting whether anyone was spitting instead of swallowing—yes, I’m still talking about wine.

screen-shot-540You tend to get stoked about an opportunity like this. 8 Chilean Carmeneres, the chance to discuss the wines with the people who made them, and the ability to simultaneously discuss those wines with other bloggers who are tasting them as well—that’s called stepping in shit, friends. And given the power struggle between traditional media and emerging media you’d think bloggers would relish the opportunity to be taken seriously…to learn…to interact…to (god forbid) behave. It’s a rather unusual request on my end, I know, because I’m nothing if not seldom well behaved, but I’ve got an “off” button and I know when to smack it. I don’t care if I come across as being unpolished and unapologetic in my writing, but I do care about coming across as knowledgeable, interested and respectful to people who have just sent me the result of their toil and sweat and asked me to join them in discussing it. Bloggers busy asking these great people what their daily fucking breakfast regimen is need to stay in the playground…or the locker room…or wherever the hell it is they go to giggle and discuss boners. Just stay out of my way.

Anyhow, the long and short of it is that if you haven’t explored the world of Carmeneres, you need to. Period. Don’t think about it, just do it. They are some of the greatest values out there today, and sooner or later prices will start climbing when the US catches on to what amazing wines are being put out by that little skinny country in the southwest pocket of South America. They are aptly described as “cabernet in silk pajamas” because of their softer tannins and usually have a telltale nose of green bell pepper. It’s also interesting to note that just about every carmenere benefits from some decanting time. Here are the eight wines I tasted, in order of preference:

Viña La Rosa “La Capitana” Carmenere 2008, Cachapoal Valley – Tied for my favorite of the night, it was smoky and meaty with hints of cocoa. This was the only one with nearly no green bell pepper aspect at all. SRP: $18

Terra Andina Altos Carmenere/Carignan 2007, Central Valley – Also tied for my “favorite” slot. It had more floral/herbal notes to it than your average carmenere because of the carignan addition. The two grapes, according to the winemaker, acted as yin and yang in balancing this wine with opposite characteristics. SRP: $19

Carmen Wine Maker’s Reserve Red 2004, Maipo Valley – This was a blend of 50% cab, 25% carmenere and 25% petit syrah. It was extremely balanced, with a nice backbone of acidity (most straight carmeneres are acidified during the winemaking process because they lack having enough of it naturally), and had some floral and tobacco notes. SRP: $44

Odfjell Armador Carmenere 2007, Colchagua/Maipo Valleys – Very, very dark color—the cork was stained almost black—which is also commonplace for carmeneres. Flavors of dark berries, plums, tobacco and a bit spicy. Softens up with some oxygen, and was nicely balanced, just lacking any complexity. SRP: $13

Viu Manent Carmenere Reserva 2007, Colchagua Valley – This one had bright red berries as opposed to dark ones and obvious notes of green pepper. It was earthier than the others (which I like) and had nice acidity on the finish, but I did feel it was a little to soft on the palate. It also clocked in at 14.5% ABV but it was not noticeable. SRP: $14

Cono Sur Visión Carmenere 2007, Colchagua Valley – This seemed to be one of the “greenest” tasting wines, though not in a bad way. Lots of green pepper, but it didn’t taste unripe. That greenness was balanced by hints of berries and chocolate. This was also the only organic wine in the bunch. SRP: $15

Ventisquero Grey Carmenere 2007, Maipo Valley – The winemaker sometimes adds some syrah to this bottling, but this vintage was 100% carmenere. I really wanted to like this one because it had a big vibrant nose with hints of funk, but after tasting it, the funk wasn’t a funk I enjoyed—perhaps sulfur? Not sure, but I would try this again next year as I felt it had potential. SRP $25

Santa Carolina Reserva Carmenere 2008, Rapel Valley – This was the least complex of the bunch. It had some nice notes of coffee and oak/bramble, but it lacked acidity in my opinion, and had a very green finish. SRP: $10

{ 17 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Jim November 11, 2009

It’s too bad that the other bloggers seemed more interested in clowning around than learning something about these seemingly delightful wines, Katie. I hope it’s because the folks who created the event chose the wrong participants, and that it isn’t a reflection on the nature of bloggers in general. But I think we both know that it is.

P.S. You said boner!!


2 Katie Pizzuto November 11, 2009

It was just a handful, but man it was embarrassing….and I don’t easily embarrass! My hope is that it’s a learning curve and that “filters” will be put in place for the next round.

There was actually a Top Chef t-shirt I wanted that says “I have a culinary boner”…gotta see if they still make ’em!


3 The Wine Commonsewer November 12, 2009

Ah, the lost grape…..mmmmm


4 Katie Pizzuto November 12, 2009

Good stuff, Mike….no serious clunkers in the bunch.


5 Margaret November 13, 2009

Glad you enjoyed the tasting. And this was just a sampling of the many, many Carmeneres that are out there on the market today. Serious wines for serious people (and let’s face it, for the not-so-serious too!)


6 Katie Pizzuto November 13, 2009

Absolutely, Margaret…loved it. And agree that it’s just scratching the surface!


7 Mark November 14, 2009

Decorous and certainly demonstrating great taste – the Viña La Rosa and Terra Andina Altos Carmenere/Carignan are no joke. Also agree that the Cono Sur Visión Carmenere tastes oddly green. Cono Sur does however produce a killer Sauvignon Blanc and Riesling.


8 Katie Pizzuto November 16, 2009

Have had Cono Sur’s SB but not the riesling….dry?!


9 Wes Hagen, Clos Pepe November 16, 2009

No reason to be stuffy at industry events, but being obviously intoxicated or loud and obnoxious will quickly earn you a reputation you don’t want either.

In my 15 years in the business, I have learned that drunkenness in the wine biz is only permissible after 11 pm.


10 Katie Pizzuto November 16, 2009

Oh, completely agree, Wes….those that know my writing on this blog know I’m the furthest thing from stuffy. But even I (with my foul mouth and sexual innuendo) know when to behave…a little 🙂


11 Margaret November 16, 2009

Sounds like a very good rule of thumb!


12 Jeff November 16, 2009

Late to the game on this thread (apologies), but amen on this sister.

I was terribly embarrassed. But, you know the old saying — the pro’s don’t go out on New Year’s Eve because it’s amateur hour.

I sent an email to Andrea at Wines of Chile essentially echoing what you said.

Hopefully the Wine Bloggers Conference continues to mature because there is a lot of this sort of “in between classes in the hallway in high school” stuff there, as well.



13 Katie Pizzuto November 17, 2009

Thanks for coming to the table, Jeff….glad to hear you felt the same way. Andrea got an email from me as well as one or two other bloggers on the same matter, so I’m pretty sure the next go-around will be better moderated.


14 Mark November 17, 2009

Apologies for the late response – The Cono Sur Riesling leans towards the dry side with just a touch of sweetness on the finish. Really nice citrus flavors that mingle well with chicken, fish, pork and goes really well with spicy foods. Give it a try and let me know what you think of it.


15 Katie Pizzuto November 17, 2009

Perhaps we can get Wines of Chile to focus on whites next go-around?! That would be cool. But in the meantime, I’ll seek out the Cono Sur…thanks Mark!!


16 tim November 17, 2009

Did you take Gonzo from Hunter?


17 Katie Pizzuto November 17, 2009

absolutely, Tim…he’s an inspiration. Check out my “About” page 🙂


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