I love Carménère, especially when it comes from Chile. Chile has over 460 years of wine heritage. When the Spanish arrived in sixteenth century, there was no phylloxera Chilean vine rootstock (at the time) grew own-rooted, which turned out to be a valuable genetic material. This allowed Carménère to thrive hidden among Merlot vines for over a century, even after its near extinction in France from phylloxera.
The Winery Story ~ Concha y Toro
In the closing years of the 19th century Don Melchor de Concha y Toro discovered that his most treasured wines had been pilfered from the “casillero” (cellar) beneath his family home. To discourage further theft, the enterprising Don spread a rumor that his deepest, darkest cellars were haunted by the devil. Today, the original Concha y Toro family estate, complete with its Devil’s Cellar, is Chile’s leading tourist destination!
The wines may have been stored in hell, but they are made in heaven. With its steady sunshine, cooling winds and pestilence-free vineyards, Chile is a winemaker’s dream. Add to this a winemaking tradition based on French grape varieties and winemaking techniques, and you have a winning combination. High quality wines can be made inexpensively, which Concha y Toro successfully demonstrated with the release of its Casillero el Diablo wines in 1963.
2014 Reserva Casillero del Diablo Carménère
This wine has a silky soft and spicy character, with a beautiful, velvety body. Think cherries and dark plums and a hint of chocolate.
When we write and talk about minerality, this wine exudes it. My food and wine choice was simple… It was a Saturday afternoon and I reached for some Harry & David chocolate covered cherries… Pure decadence and passion. For a brief moment in time, I didn’t need another blessed thing. So smooth… Grilling ribs? You won’t be disappointed. The tannin structure will be smoothed out by and all will remain silky smooth.
In the Cachapoal Valley, it is comprised of tranquil lands and modest, colonial homesteads. Winemakers arrived late in the 19th Century. By 1980, it became recognized for its Carménère, but at that time it was thought to be Merlot. By 1990, the DNA identity of Carménère came from the Maipo Valley. Carménère is named for its “carmine” color. Think of vibrant, autumnal leaves. Synonyms: burgundy wine, maroon, crimson, vermilion, oxblood, ruby, puce, and claret. [IMAGE: From Flower, honey and milk.com]
The soil of the Cachapoal Valley has fertile alluvial terraces, comprised of clay, sand, and silt. When Carménère was nearly wiped out of France by Phylloxera, there is no such pest in South America, so it survived. South America continues to be very careful to not import the devastating pest.
Phylloxera is indigenous to North America, and was brought to France during the late 1800s. This just about wiped out the fickle-to-France grape. As a result, when it came time to replant, Carménère wasn’t a priority.
Carménère is very particular about what soil it grows best in, and the Cachapoal Valley sets the gold standard for South America. The best location is in the town of Peumo, because of the breezes from the ocean, to river beds, and then across reservoirs.