There's something great about finding something you thought had long been lost, or even just finding something you had long forgotten. The idea is the same. There is a magic to the rediscovery, almost heightening your original experience because of the novelty of the find. This happened to me a couple of years ago when my mom had us go through our respective "boxes" of childhood stuff to consolidate our treasures. I remember finding a terrific array of goodies from my first "club", where I was deemed Secretary. I was - and still am - completely humored by the fact that my newsletter writing style and go-get-'m/take-no-prisoners/ra-ra approach as an 8 year old lived on in my daily correspondence with colleagues in 2006. Funny stuff.
Carmenere is to 19th Century Bordeaux, France as my email writing style today is to 1987. Just imagine researchers' surprise and delight in the mid 1990s when the Carmenere grape was found alive and well in Chile - after it was long thought distinct due to the onset of phylloxera in Bordeaux. Difficult to replant and prone to disease because of the weather conditions in Bordeaux, Carmenere (one of the 6 original "noble" varieties of Bordeaux) was considered a lost cause and not replanted after the phylloxera epidemic. Somehow, someway, Carmenere grape plantings arrived in Chile - and the varietal thrived in its new dry, warm habitat. The 'funny' thing is this varietal was thought to be Merlot.... for quite a long time Chilean "Merlot" was distinct. Finally, in 1994, research was undertaken to sort things out - and Carmenere's true identity and history were revealed.
Today Carmenere is not just used as a blending grape, but known in its own right as one of Chile's best single varietal wines. Don't get me wrong, I've tasted a lot of bad Carmenere, with bitter, stemmy flavors and a distinct green bell pepper vegetal quality dominating. But when it's on, it's on. Good examples show tremendous depth for a "middle-weight", including red and dark fruits, a touch of earthiness, tobacco and leather, as well as a distinct smokey character or even a mocha/dark chocolate element. No kidding. All that in a bottle of wine!
Just this week I retasted the well-known 2007 Terra Noble Grand Reserva Carmenere. It's smokiness and darker tones (e.g. dried herbs, tobacco and leather) made me channel a great big stew of lamb, carrots and potatoes, sitting in front of my (theoretical) fireplace. I realized somehow thus far I had neglected to share this something new/something old with my readers. Well, better late than never! This wine will certainly carry us through the inevitably blustery March right on into Spring, when our barbecues will be ripe for action thereafter.
But as I said, there's a lot of Carmenere on the market and it doesn't always delight. Chile is, after all, an up and coming area experiencing a few growing pains. And I think Carmenere may be more of an acquired taste than an automatic winner for most consumers. No surprise then, today's question is:
What's your experience with Carmenere?