The Tasting Panel magazine

November 2014

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54  /  the tasting panel  /  november 2014 VARIETALS T here are few stories in the wine world as romantic as the rediscovery of Carmenère. Thought to be extinct in its native Bordeaux for more than 130 years, this sneaky grape found an undercover home in Chile, where it was mistaken for Merlot on the vine. Then, on November 24, 1994, French ampelographer Jean-Michel Boursiquot visited Chile and rediscovered the noble variety, probably imported from Bordeaux in the 19th century, growing on an estate vineyard at Carmen Winery. It was a milestone discovery, and Carmen has become a benchmark in Carmenère production ever since. The name "Carmenère" (carmin-yare) originates from the French word for crimson (carmin), referring to the brilliant crimson color of the autumn foliage prior to leaf-fall. It's pure coincidence, but also entirely fitting, that Carmen—founded in 1850 and Chile's oldest winery—has a name so similar to the grape it made famous. So it's not too much of a stretch to say that Carmen is Carmenère. Here to spread the news of varietal Carmenère stateside, Carmen Winery, along with their Winemaker Sebatián Labbe, invites American consumers to celebrate the 20th anniversary of the amazing rediscovery of this unique grape. While Chile produces the vast majority of the world's Carmenère—it's among the top ten Chilean varieties, and holds its own in the U.S. market, totaling up $7 million per year in sales—no one does it quite as well as Carmen, where it all began. "Carmenère was discovered at Carmen," says Labbé, "and we feel that no one does the varietal like we do. We add small percentages of Carignane and Tempranillo, which increases the vibrancy of the wine. Then we age it in French oak barrels for ten months, resulting in the perfect finish." Favoring Chile's long, temperate growing season, Carmenère has the structure of a medium-bodied Cabernet Sauvignon but the roundness of the Merlot for which it was once mistaken. Labbé has united the integrity and authenticity of Chile's oldest winery with modern innovations in his latest vintage. The Carmen 2011 Gran Reserva Carmenère combines the flavors of ripe berries with the earthiness of sweet spices and tobacco. Carmenère is the ideal wine to go with the Chilean passion for food—try your favorite grilled steak with the Carmen Gran Reserva. "At Carmen," Labbé says, "we invite people on a journey of discovery—to find out what the new Chile is all about." And an indelible part of that story is Carmenère. In the U.S., Carmen wines are part of the Trinchero Family Estates diverse portfolio of wines and spirits. Trinchero formed the collaboration with Claro Group Wineries, leading producer of premium wines in South America and owner of Doña Paula winery of Argentina and Carmen winery of Chile, in 2011. Carmen Is Carmenère The Apalta Valley. Carmen Winemaker Sebastián Labbé. Carmen Gran Reserva 2011 Carmenère. CARMEN WINES CELEBRATES 20 YEARS SINCE THE REDISCOVERY OF CHILE'S SIGNATURE GRAPE VARIETY by Brian Kustera PHOTO COURTESY OF CARMEN WINES PHOTO COURTESY OF CARMEN WINES PHOTO COURTESY OF CARMEN WINES

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