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(2021) Session host Alistair Cooper says Carmenere is coming of age to an extent, only having been rediscovered in Chile in the 1990s. Winemaker for Tarapaca, Sebastian Ruiz, explains that this wine from grantic soils closer to the ocean shows the influence that terroir has on the variety. So much denser and darker in colour than the three preceding reds, there's not a lot of the green, pyrozene character of some examples, but there is a dark, glossy fruity character and some real graphite finesse. The palate follows that recipe: smooth dark fruits, supple and creamy tannins, good acid balance and great drinkability.
(2016) From a single vineyard in Chile's Maipo Valley, this Syrah from Concha y Toro was aged in barrels for 14 months, a combination of small 'barriques' and large 5,000-litre casks. It has an expressive nose with a hint of meaty, sizzling bacon fat against dark, plummy fruit. On the palate it is full-bodied and dense with its 14.5% alcohol, but that meatiness and the dark bittersweet fruit and acidity is well-matched by the structure in a food-friendly wine that will also cellar for a couple of years. Watch the video for food-matching advice and more information. Note: on sale at £9 in Tesco from 24/05 - 13/06, 2016.
(2016) Solid and sweet cassis and black plum, licked with chocolate and smoky spice, but seriously sweet and ripe fruit, with a richness and gloss, though the chocolate smoothness of the tannins makes it very svelte and creamy. Good structure in a classic style, and very well done. 2013 not in UK at time of writing, so price quoted is for 2012.
(2016) Maipo fruit. Colluvial material from the volcanos. A minty, eucalypt nose, with a touch of smokiness and good black fruit, dark berries. The palate has a great juicy concentration of cassis, with a tart plum and cherry skin acidity, and again the tannins are ripe and creamy-smooth. The structure is there, but it’s a tight framework of tannins and acids draped by that sweet black fruit and creamy oak.
(2016) Oak is one third each of new, 2nd and 3rd use barrela. Juicy and lightly minty, with some chocolate and earthy creamy notes. It has pretty big tannins, chewy and dense, a spicy and balanced finish.
(2016) Pleasing bloody touches to the black fruit and the earthy meaty qualities again, I like the structure and the solid tannins which are grippy but fine. The fruit stays quite substantial and has the nice blend of sweetness and grippy, meaty structure. 2011 currently showing on Majestic's website.
(2010) >From the Maipo Valley this is minty and ripe, with lots of sweet fruit, lots of cassis freshness and ripeness, just a touch of underpinning meatiness. Lovely fleshy density on the palate, with a lip-smacking acidity and grip. Good stuff at a relatively modest price.
(2010) An independent winery marketed by Concha y Toro in the UK, where former CyT winemaker Max Weinlaub is in charge. This is 75% Carmenère, and has a very tight, focused, blackcurrant and graphite nose with teasing glimpses of chocolate and slightly earthy, herby notes. On the palate it is a big wine (14.5%) with a full attack of super-sweet, undiluted cassis fruit and firm, spicy and juicy tannins, It is perhaps a touch too oaky and extracted in the finish for my taste, lacking just a little dimension, but it is impressive, decisive stuff.
(2010) The second wine from Viña Maipo is a fairly unusual blend of Syrah and Petite Sirah, weighing in with 14.5% alcohol. There's an authentic Syrah whiff of Smokey bacon on the nose, the charry barrel and the meaty, spicy fruit melding nicely. On the palate this is very concentrated and intense with a firm backbone of tannin and plum skin, bittersweet fruit. It is probably a bit too big for its own boots in a way, those slightly aggressive tannins, big oak and the firmness unrelenting, so just lacking a touch of charm. There's great fruit and a potentially terrific wine in there, but it just needs to pull back 20% or 30% on everything basically.
(2004) Carmenère is seen by many as Chile's ace in the pack; this almost forgotten Bordeaux variety was mis-identified as Merlot for many years, before its true identity was rediscovered. Jancis Robinson is just one wine critic I have talked to who is a fan of the grape, but is sceptical about its suitability as a single varietal wine. If any example was going to prove the case for varietal Carmenère, it would be this "super-Carm" from Errazuriz's Don Maxiamo vineyard, retailing at he nose is like opening up a spice cupboard; a melange of clove, ginger and exotic spices wrapped in a cedary framework. There's a charcoally density and concentrated muscularity to the fruit. On the palate it delivers a big shock-wave of grippy, tannic black fruit with masses of inky extraction and a bite of cherry-skin acidity wrapped in spices and toast. This is formidable and serious stuff, and benchmark Carmenère, though some may find it overpowering.
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