Curiosity, Meet Carménère
A complete and utter distaste for boring, half-hearted resolutions (Read: This year i really will lose 5lbs, etc.) has sent me searching–and not for my soul, but for more wine. After resolving that a drink or two would probably be the only way I could handle these bozos at the gym for the next six weeks, I decided I may as well resolve to drink critically (read: often).
After seeing lots of carménères at stores and on menus this season, I decided to make this spicy Chilean variety the target of my first critical drink of the year. Little did I know, Chile is the only country that sells the variety solo. Usually, It’s mixed (and tends to be better) with Cabernet Sauvignon. The grape is a french transplant to Chile from the 1800s, that virtually disappeared back then and reappeared “accidentally” labeled as Merlot. Then the guys from CSI showed up, swabbed everyone’s cheeks, and revealed via DNA that the Merlot was a fraud, and carménère was back–well, not exactly but you get the point.
Today I sampled 2 bargain carménère’s dug from the bargain bins at Trader Joe’s. First, PaniIonco Reserve 2010 ($3.99), and then Casileiro Diablo ($7.99). According to wine guru Kevin Zraly–who’s about to be on my wish list–value is part of carménère in general, with top-notch finds going for about $20. I solidly preferred Casileiro Diablo’s version, which was also one of Trader Joe’s recommended selections.
The Casileiro del Diablo reminded me of a suave Latino gentleman–Dark and easy on the eyes, smooth in the mouth from start to finish, with enough spice to keep things interesting (Think Antonio Banderas). His aroma was Old Spice vinified–deep berries, and a dash of black pepper. The tannins added a pinch of pucker, though I still crawled back for another round with Antonio glass.
This time, I drank it alongside dishes of penne all’arrabiata–pasta in a spicy tomato sauce, and loved it. Since then, I’ve also really enjoyed it solo and with cold appetizers, like hard salami and manchego cheese. I think It would also pair well with spicy grilled meats, or super dark chocolate.
Swirl, Smell, Sip, Repeat. (Then make a resolution worth keeping).
Region: This grape grows in a ton of places, from the Médoc in France to Wala Wala, WA, but is known for its success in Chilean Valleys.
Fun Facts: The name “carménère” comes from the word crimson, most likely due to the grapes’ deep, red hue.
It’s also one of the original six grapes permitted in Bordeaux.