Baby, You Can Drive Off With My Carmenere

If I have ever represented myself as anything other than a neophyte in this overwhelming world of fermented fruit juice – my bad. Let me assure you that I know I have a lot to learn.

Carmen sings the blues

Carmen sings the blues

For example, before my last Gourmet Monthly Wine Club arrival, I had never had CarmenereCarmenere. One of the bottles in the shipment was a 2008 Carmen Rapel Valley Carmenere from Chile. Excitement! A great opportunity to expand my horizons! Jess poured our glasses. We got comfortable and prepped ourselves for delving deeply into this new experience.




Here's the thing: If you like licking lead pipes, you're going to totally love the metallic notes in this wine. It's big and jammy, so that might appeal to some. Anyone out there that has ever considered joining a facebook fan page in praise of green peppers is going to be oh-so-happy. Ecstatic, even. I referred to this wine as “salad in a bottle,” after my first sip, so that should get a whole bunch of salad drinking party people really stoked.

Oh, sweet mercy.

…just not my thing.

But what do I know, right? This was my first experience with Carmenere. Could be that the 08 Carmen is the gold standard and I just didn't have the good sense to know better.

It happens.

So when I visited my family in North Carolina a few weeks later, my sister-in-law took me to West End Wine Bar and I decided to do more research. And eat some olives. Because, man, I love me some olives.

But I digress.



I ordered a glass of 2008 PKNT “Silver Collection” Carmenere. The PKNT (pronounced “picante“) is also from Rapel Valley, Chile. And this time I loved the varietal. Black pepper and dark berries on the nose and palette. So delicious – and I'm generally not a huge fan of very peppery wines. Really, really enjoyed this one, though.

Good Carma?

Good Carma?

But when I returned to the Land of LaLa and attended a benefit to help Chile (and its devastated wine industry) at Pourtal Wine Bar, I again had a hard time enjoying this Bordeaux export that has since become a Chilean trademark. The 2008 Carma Carmenere from the Colchagua Valley was all tobacco and chocolate, purple berries and pepper. Not tastes I dislike in wine, but I definitely disliked them in this wine. I couldn't even finish my glass.

The thing is, though, that a quick Google search of “2008 Carma Carmenere” returns, like, a billion reviews (okay, more like 1,720 entries) – mostly positive – about this stuff. Wine writers, bloggers and merchants the world over all seem to think it's unquestionably, quaffably, yum.

Which brings me, full circle, back to where I began:

1. I have no pretenses, whatsoever, about knowing, really, anything at all

2. Over the course of this little journey, I tried three very different CarmenereCarmenere wines, two of which did not taste like green peppers and one of which did. I have it on the highest, cross-referenced and researched authority (albeit lacking a large test sample) that Carmenere should not taste like salad

The great thing about this varietal is that you can find well-reviewed Carmenere for well under $20. So don't take my word for it – give it a try. Carmenere is hugely popular right now, and Chile really needs the business. Then please share your comments! I'd love to get other opinions and see what the rest of the world drinks and thinks.

Posted on by Arianna Armstrong in Arianna's Wine Tasting Notes

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