Colchagua Valley in Chile and Carménère

This week we head back to Chile and focus on the Central Valley region, near the capital city of Santiago. The Central Valley or Valle Central consists of four sub regions: Maipo Valley, Rapel Valley, Curicó Valley and the Maule Valley. The region is located across the Andes Mountains directly west of the Mendoza wine region of Argentina. Located within the Rapel Valley is the Colchagua Province that runs west following the path of the Tinguiririca River, which flows down from the Andes Mountains to the Pacific Ocean.

The Colchagua Valley is one of Chile’s best known wine regions, earning much of its accolades for producing well-made, full-bodied red wines including Cabernet Sauvignon, Carménère, Syrah and Malbec. Most of the wineries in the area are concentrated in the center of the valley, although new sites are climbing up the hillsides, and also toward the ocean. While Cabernet Sauvignon is the most widely planted varietal in the region, it is Chilean Carménère that is becoming the wine of interest.

Carménére was originally planted in the Medoc region of Bordeaux, France where it was used to produce deep red wines, and occasionally for blending purposes. In fact, the word Carménère is derived from the French word for crimson (carmin), which refers to the brilliant crimson colors of the fall foliage. Today, Carménère is rarely found in France, but is found growing in California, the Walla Walla Valley in Washington State, with small amounts planted in Italy’s Veneto and Friuli-Venezia Giulia regions, as well. With over 21,000 acres planted to Carménère, the Central Valley of Chile is by far the largest area devoted to the varietal.

One of the wines we have recently tasted from the Colchagua Valley is a Carménère from the Ecos de Rulo Estate by the Bisquertt family. Founded in 1978, the estate grows this varietal in alluvial soils with excellent drainage. It is then fermented in stainless steel tanks, aged in French and American oak for 10 to 12 months, cold stabilized and filtered and then stored in bottle in their cellar for 4 to 6 months before being released. Our tasting notes follow:

Ecos de Rulo Carménère Colchugua Valley 2009 Chile:

Appearance: deep, brilliant purple

Aroma: dark berry and cocoa tones with hints of spice

Flavors: dark berry tones continue with eucalyptus notes and spice flavors toward the finish

Finishing Notes: finishes with full fruit flavors, well balanced and pleasant

Food Pairing:

Carménère – pairs well with a variety of dishes, especially spicy and savory dishes, dishes with oregano, thyme, garlic and black pepper, also pairs with olives, tomatoes, green peppers and mushrooms and is a great accompaniment to most game dishes such as venison, lamb, duck, rabbit and chicken depending on the preparation

Perfect Pairing:

Carménère – would pair perfectly with a venison stew with carrots, mushrooms, garlic and onions over a rosemary and thyme risotto

WINE:30 is written by Karl Bradley and Jody Wuollett. Karl and Jody are both long time residents of Door County and are employed at the Mission Grille in Sister Bay. They have both been awarded the first level of certification from the Court of the Master Sommeliers.

Weekly Wine Trivia

What is the French synonym for the grape varietal known as Carménère?

Email your answer to Karl & Jody at [email protected]. The first correct answer in their inbox will receive a complimentary bottle of wine from them. Cheers!

Last week’s trivia: Macabeo, Parellada and Xarel-lo grapes are traditionally used to make what type of wine?

Answer: Cava from Spain

Congratulations to our winner for last week’s wine trivia, and thanks for all the responses! Good luck this week.