Amazing grape: Carmenère
Once it was lost, but now it's found, an ocean away from its original home, this appealing red wine grape called Carmenère, with its century-old French heritage and a welcoming new home in the Spanish-speaking New World.
It has been a couple of years since we took our last look at this intriguing variety. Let's return to it today, re-introducing Carmenère as this month's featured wine in our wine-education feature, Wine Tasting 101.
Once it was lost: Centuries ago, Carmenère was widely grown in Bordeaux as a popular ingredient in that French region's great red wines. Hearty and robust, it added rich red color, full body and hearty flavor to a blend that without it would have been on the pale side. But Carmenère fell out of favor more than 300 years ago for economic reasons - in a chilly and damp climate like Bordeaux, it falls an easy victim to a grapevine affliction called "coulure," in which spring buds fail to develop into grape bunches.
But now it's found: In Chile, where the arid climate doesn't foster coulure and where there's a good dose of French blood in the wine-producing family tree, Carmenère was widely grown by the 1800s ... but its name got lost. Some growers called the grape Grande Vidure, but most of it was eventually mistaken for its cousin Merlot.
During the past dozen years or so, though, Chilean wine makers have rediscovered the vine's original heritage, identified many "Merlot" vineyards as Carmenère, and are producing an increasingly popular varietal wine.
One good, affordable Carmenère is featured below. I'll be trying a couple more during the coming month, and encourage you to do the same.
STUDY CARMENERE IN WINE TASTING 101
Wine Tasting 101 uses the same user-friendly software as our other interactive forums, but it is dedicated to a single purpose: Learning more about wine by tasting a specific featured wine each month, recording your impressions and sharing them with others in a civil, friendly online community where peer support is encouraged and abuse is banned.
This month's topic is Carmenère, and you are cordially invited to participate. (And don't worry, there's no admission charge. All our forums are free and open to wine lovers everywhere.) To get started, click to Wine Tasting 101,
If you prefer to comment privately, feel free to send me E-mail at email@example.com. I'll respond personally to the extent that time and volume permit.
Santa Ema 2001 Rapel Valley Carmenère ($9.99)
Very dark reddish-purple, almost black. An intriguing mix of scents builds aroma complexity - black cherry with a hint of anise and "torrefied" overtones of smoke and black coffee. Flavors are consistent with the nose, black-cherry fruit and earthy, charred nuances, all shaped by lemony acidity that becomes almost tangy in the finish and makes for an exceptionally palate-cleansing food companion. U.S. importer: T.G.I.C. Importers Inc., Woodland Hills, Calif. (March 3, 2004)
FOOD MATCH: A natural with red meat, but it also made a delicious match with lighter fare, a dinner salad (easy on the vinaigrette) topped with the earthy flavors of Point Reyes blue cheese and slices of a robust, peppery Calabrese-style salame from Volpi of St. Louis.
VALUE: No complaints at the $10 price point.
WHEN TO DRINK: No rush to drink it, but I don't see it evolving with cellar time.
WEB LINK: The Santa Ema Website is available in Spanish and English at
FIND THIS WINE ONLINE: Look for Santa Ema Carmenère on Wine-Searcher.com:
Brentwood Wine Co.
It's spring cleaning season. Don't forget your wine cellar!
Savvy wine enthusiasts know that the time of year when we clean up, fix up and paint up is also a great time to review our wine collection and consider moving things around, clearing out old bottles that no longer intrigue us and making room for something new. Perhaps you over-bought what seemed like a good deal at the time ... or your tastes have changed ... or maybe you just see an opportunity to realize an investment gain on something you bought a decade ago. Whatever your reasons for taking wine to auction, Brentwood is the place for you. Here's why:
Of course selling is only half the game. If you're buying collectibles, Brentwood is your year-round source for centerpiece wines for entertaining. Enjoy the fun and excitement of buying wine at auction ... at Brentwood Wine Co.,
PS: Thinking about restocking your home glassware? Be sure to check Brentwood for great buys on Riedel crystal: they've got some of the lowest prices on the planet!
California Wine Club
Just two weeks left in The California Wine Club's Spring Cleaning Wine Sale!
Take advantage of real savings on award-winning wines from California's best mom and pop wineries. Wine Sales come just twice a year, so don't miss this opportunity to stock up and save! Visit
Six CWC Wine sale goodies
Here, in quick review, are summaries of my comments on a half-dozen of the "mom & pop winery" goodies featured in the California Wine Club's Spring Cleaning Wine Sale this month. They're all amazing bargains at this single-digit price.
2001 Baileyana Winery, "Paso Robles" Syrah ($8.25)
2001 Century Oak Winery, "Old Vine" Zinfandel ($8.25)
2001 Drytown Cellars, "California" Merlot ($8.25)
2002 Kitfox Vineyards, "California" Cabernet Sauvignon ($8.25)
2001 Mastantuono Winery, Carminello ($8.25)
2000 Sylvester Vineyard & Winery, Kiara Reserve, Estate Bottled "Paso Robles" Chardonnay ($8.25)
FIND THESE WINES ONLINE: Click directly to the ordering page for this and many other $8.25 sale specials at California Wine Club,
Wine Advisor's Premium Edition
Cautious about risking $30 or more for a special bottle of wine? The 30 Second Wine Advisor Premium Edition covers wines in the $30 to $50 range. This trustworthy E-mail companion makes it easy to shop with confidence when you're spending a little more. ... and your participation helps support WineLoversPage.com.
The next Premium Edition will go to subscribers a week from tomorrow. If you're not already on the subscription list, I hope you'll join us soon:
This week on WineLoversPage.com
Here are links to some of our recently published articles that I think you'll enjoy:
Nat Decants: Food and wine
I'm delighted to report, by the way, that Natalie MacLean has been nominated for two James Beard journalism awards, including the M.F.K. Fisher Distinguished Writing Award. We'll be cheering for her when the awards are presented in New York City in May.
Wine Lovers' Discussion Group: Latitude and grapes
Last Week's Wine Advisor Index
The Wine Advisor's daily edition is usually distributed on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays (and, for those who subscribe, the FoodLetter on Thursdays). Here's the index to last week's columns:
White Meritage (March 12, 2004)
Zin and 'za (March 10, 2004)
The literate wine lover: Wine-book reviews (March 8, 2004)
Complete 30 Second Wine Advisor archive:
Wine Advisor FoodLetter: Pursuing perfect bread (March 11, 2004)
Wine Advisor Foodletter archive:
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Monday, March 15, 2004