I’ll say it straight out – Carmenère is NOT the future of Chilean wine. ‘Santa Rita’s focus on exceptional primium Chilean wines moves to a new level with the UK launch of the new Santa Rita Pehuén Carmenère.’ A bottle of Pehuén arrived, all £24.99’s worth of it, and I tried it over the weekend. It starts off rich, oily and concentrated, lush and packed with flavours of berries, coffee beans and brown sugar. Great to taste, but to drink… Sadly, it’s another of those wines that are just too big. I poured a glass for over dinner (ribeye steak, so something fairly macho), but ended up after a couple of sips pouring it back into the decanter and drinking the ever excellent Torres Gran Sangre de Toro (a third the price). The following day, I shoved a glass of the Pehuén under Jill’s precise and pretty nose – ‘Tia Maria?!?’ Quite bizarrely, it had gone into a blobby liqueur-like state, with the oak jutting out and any crispness and freshness completely subsumed by ripeness and coarseness. This from a company whose Casa Real is one of Chile’s finest Cabernets.
So what should the Chileans do with Carmenère? Blend it. Just as that other obscure Bordeaux grape, Petit Verdot, predominantly Carmenère wines are just too much of a good thing. Another Santa Rita wine, Triple C – Cab Sauv + Cab Franc + Carmenère – shows the right approach. Carmenère’s role is to be seasoning, not the main course.
(would love it if Hardy’s – Constellation – were to plant Carmenère in Australia and blend it with Shiraz, then they could do a wine called Carmen Eileen….)