November is full of “wine days” — days set aside to celebrate certain wines. For example, Merlot Day is Nov. 7 (for unknown reasons), Tempranillo Day is set each year by TAPAS and is usually around the second week of November, then Beaujolais Day is always the third Thursday in November because that’s the day they release the Beaujolais Nouveau, Zinfandel Day is the third Wednesday placing it squarely in advance of Thanksgiving, and followed by Carménère Day Nov. 24
These wines are all relatively known and easy to find but what about Carménère?
Nov. 24 is Carménère Day because Nov. 24 is the day in 1994 that someone figured out that those vineyards of vines in Chile and the wines they were making from them weren’t actually Merlot but Carménère.
Seriously. 1994. It took them that long to figure out that it wasn’t just that Merlot grown in Chile tasted different but that it WAS different.
Further, until then, it was thought that Carménère was extinct, that disease had basically wiped it off the planet. This helps explain why this wine is so little known.
But if you’re a fan of Cabernet Franc, you should definitely check out Carménère.
Like Cabernet Franc in flavor profile with lots of herbs and red stone fruit, but more dense in the glass, Carménère likewise goes great with complex foods and braised meats.
We paired four Carménère from Concha y Toro at three price points with homemade lasagne, caprese salad, and green beans for our tasting just before Thanksgiving which meant there was some to share
with our Thanksgiving meal where we found Carménère LOVED the herbal aspects of the cornbread dressing. And we already knew it paired well with a pan fired ham steak and green beans, but we discovered that it was DELISH with the smoked ham my husband prepared for our Thanksgiving Day feast. We had suspected it would go well with an herbed turkey and it did with the richer dark meat.
2016 – Casillero del Diablo – Carménère
13.5% alcohol $11
Color: Bright plum with a nice density to it, dusty rose rim
Nose: Eucalyptus, menthol, grassy, green bell pepper, the nose is very rewarding. In the background there is red stone fruit, more cherry than plum, rhubarb. Herbal notes include chaparral, sage, and mint reminding John of a hot day hiking through the Jeffery Pines.
Palate: Young, bright acidity. Sue detected red licorice, also minty cleanliness, there is a brief rewarding finish, hints of watermelon jolly rancher on the very back end.
Pairing: Really good with the salami, I wants burgers with blue cheese, Sue was dreaming about pizza and the lasagna that is in the oven. Really good with the ham. Great with the salad.
“What kind of a wine pairs with a green salad?” asks Sue. Carménère is the answer.
Thumbs up to the green beans, fine with the lasagna.
2010 – Concha y Toro Carménère
14% alcohol SRP $17
I bought this wine at the Ventura Wine Co when it placed in Wine Spectator’s Top 100 a few years ago. I didn’t intend to cellar to for so many years but I’m really glad I did! And so was Sue!
Color: Super dense, you cannot see through the glass, it is completely dark and dense, blackish plum with a plum rim, a color
Nose: Roasted jalapeno pepper, herbs, roasted red pepper, cherry, the nose is very contemplative, it is one of those wines that you want to continue smelling and contemplating
Palate: Boysenberries, very plush and rich with a bright cherry finish, there are cocoa nibs, red hots on the finish
Pairing: You can enjoy this wine without food, but with food it is a whole new experience. With the espresso coated toscano, the espresso is forefront and so pleasant with this wine. With the salami, there is a wonderful complexity that is pronounced in both the wine and the food. We loved going back to the wine with the meal. It went so well with everything. The lasagna, the green beans and the salad: it was all so good with this wine.
2016- Concha y Toro Carménère Peumo Serie Riberas Gran Reserva
13.5% alcohol $17
Wine Spectator gave this wine a score of 90 and placed it on their Top 100 in 2018. If you can find it, snap it up and lay it down!
Color: Somewhat dense, some translucency, rich plum with a light pink rim
Nose: Closed in, jalapeño jelly, I smelled a jalapeño popper and could imagine the gooey cream cheese. There is an overlying clean sweetness.
Palate: This is a young wine, and will lay down and get so incredibly better. Right now it is nicely mouth-watering because the tannins are present. Mulberries.
Pairing: Good with a ham, a nice herbed turkey goes well, would love to try with a rack of lamb with tons of herbs and garlic on it or Mac and Cheese drizzled with truffle oil. Another burger and cheese wine. So, so great with the pork basil, garlic sausage in the lasagna.
If you have the patience buy this wine now and save it for a few years– maybe not six, but you will be amply rewarded with this wine having any time in the cellar.
2016 – Marques de Casa Concha y Toro Peumo Carménère – 13.5% alcohol – SRP around $25
Color: Garnet with a ruby ring
Nose: Bell pepper, jalapeño, super vegetal,
Palate: Smooth across the palate, lovely texture, texture of creamy chocolate, sage and thyme. We would love to revisit this wine after it was cellared for at least 10 years. Right now it is a brisk wine, light tannins, cocoa powder, there is a reason to pay more if you want to drink a wine now and have the option to cellar. This wine is smooth and lovely.
Pairing: Go great with an herb forward meal of pork loin, lamb, turkey with herbed stuffing, liked the toscano cheese where the espresso coating paired well, and the salami was fantastic, bringing out baking spices.
Sue felt that for a drink it now wine, this wine is worth the price, however, if you lay this wine down for a few years, it will taste like it is worth $100…
Happy Birthday Carménère! Cheers!