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Comforting Carmenère from Concha y Toro

Northside Staff Tasters: Dave Pohl, ed., Dana Malley, Jason Wentworth, Kelley O'Neill, Alice Peters, Jim Roblee, Joshua Beane, Bill Winston

Carmenère was first planted in France's Bordeaux region in the 18th century. Also called Grande Vidure, the wine it produced was considered particularly flavorful and deeply colored. Unfortunately, it was also late to ripen and prone to disease. By the end of the 19th century, it had been largely replaced by the earlier ripening Merlot and hardier Cabernet Sauvignon.

Carmenère today lives on in the vineyards of Chile. The aristocratic winery owners of 19th century Chile, enamored with the wines of Bordeaux, imported and planted the vines of that region, including Carmenère. Much of it, however, was interspersed with Merlot vines, and over many decades both varieties came to be thought of as Merlot.

In 1994 a French oenologist used DNA mapping to ascertain that much of what Chilean grape growers were calling Merlot was, in fact, Carmenère! From that point on, new plantings of Carmenère have been separated from Merlot vineyards, and wine bottled as varietally labeled Carmenère.

The staff at Northside Wine & Spirits recently blind tasted 15 Chilean Carmenères, and found a wide range of quality. The finest examples were richly textured and had delicious dark fruit flavors as well as an enticing hint of spice. The best news? The first place wine costs only $9 per bottle!

The 2006 Concha y Toro "Casillero del Diablo" Carmenère is a very easy to enjoy, fruit forward wine [Sku 4348].* A subtle oakiness complements the delicious dark berry flavors, hints of cocoa and smoke add complexity, and a slightly spicy note creeps into a lush finish. It's a very satisfying wine, and priced to buy by the case. Try this bargain with beef stew and other cold weather braises, mushroom concoctions of all sorts, or any of your favorite winter comfort foods!

"Top Wine Picks" as seen in The Ithaca Journal 12/03/2007.

*To purchase this wine, simply type its "Sku" into the "Find" field at the top of the page, then click "Go."

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