I was in one of my local wine shops a few days ago doing some label research (what styles do I like, which do I hate, etc) and came across an interesting bottle of wine in the South American section. I have a fondness for South American wine since they've only relatively recently been sprung on the wine world stage. I love that they've adopted two kind of obscure grape varietals (carmenere and malbec) as their signature wines. Both carmenere and malbec were once grown in the Bourdeaux region of France but were viewed as blending partners instead of star players. After the phylloxera epidemic of the early 1900s, these varietals really died out as the vineyards were replanted with more commercially successful varieties like cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc. Fortunately, cuttings of carmenere and malbec snuck rides to the New World during the Spanish colonial period and found a new home where they were at first confused with merlot. Some genetic testing in the 1980s cleared up the problem and now we can enjoy many offerings of carmenere from Chile and Malbec from Argentina in our local stores. The underdog grapes that were inadvertently rescued from the trash bin of history...
This week, I stumbled across a proudly advertised blend of carmenere and malbec from Chile, so I had to buy a bottle to try--the fact that it was on sale for $5 off the asking price didn't hurt either!
In Situ Signature Wines
2011 Carmenere 55% & Malbec 45%
Origin: Aconcagua Valley, Chile
Producer: Vina San Esteban
Appearance: Dark red with some slight bricking along edge
Aroma: Cherry, vanilla, blackberry, pepper, cassis
Taste: Rich mouthfeel, medium tannins, spicy (almost shiraz-like) aftertaste that dwindles quickly. Fortunately that makes me want to drink more, but it's not a wine to savor for a long time.
I'll admit the label is not impressive. I was drawn by the blend in the bottle, not what was on the surface. The fact that it was on sale tells me I'm not alone in that assessment. A decent wine meant to be drunk fairly soon without the need to cellar before opening. In fact, I can't find a single mention of the wine on the winery website which indicates to me that even the winery doesn't think too highly of this wine. That makes me want to drink some more in a gesture of solidarity!
p.s. This did pair quite nicely with a chicken mole that I made yesterday and reheated tonight. The chocolate flavor of the mole brought a lasting spicy finish to the wine.