2017 Grial Carménère from Colchagua, Chile
Opened this bottle last night and thought it worthy of repeating a quick history of Carménère and one a lot of people are not familiar with today.
History of Carménère
The history of Carménère varietal is as fascinating as it is happenstance! It was once a blending wine in the Medoc region of Bordeaux. It served a similar purpose as Petit Verdot does today – producing a deep red ink on wines. It was part of the original seven red grapes of Bordeaux. Carménère originates from the French word for crimson (carmin) which refers to the crimson color of the autumn foliage.
When the Phylloxera plague hit in 1867 destroying most of the vineyards in Europe, many thought the Carménère grape was extinct. It wasn’t until approximately 150 years later that it was discovered that Chile had mistakenly preserved the Carménère grape thinking it was Merlot (from clippings planted from France). DNA confirmed it was the missing 6th varietal of Bordeaux. The 7th missing varietal of Bordeaux can be found at the following link in the third paragraph:
Carménère grows mainly in Chile, specifically the Colchagua Valley, Rapel Valley and in the Maipo Province. This Grial wine comes from Colchagua, specifically Apalta Valley. It is also grown in Italy, in Veneto and recently several wineries in Lodi, Napa and Calaveras are producing it, albeit in small quantities. 3 Steves Winery, in Livermore actually produces a Carménère in Chile. Walla Walla also has some root stock growing in Carménère. A different winery from Livermore Valley has produced and showcase a locally grown Carménère (Cuda Ridge Winery).
Uniqueness of Carménère
As a blend varietal it has the deep ruby coloring and aromas of red & dark fruits, plum and berries. Tannins are softer, milder and more refined than a Cabernet Sauvignon tannins, thus its use in blending to soften a strong Cabernet Sauvignon. Chile produces a 100% Carménère which has a cherry and fruity flavor but has traces of smoke and earthy notes with the inky coloration.
2017 Grail Carménère
The 2017 Grial Carménère is among the very best Carménère wines produced today and comes from 70-year-old, un-grafted vines. Extreme measures were taken in fruit selection which results in a rich, extracted and bold wine capable of many years of extended cellaring. Its seductive flavors of blackberry, pipe tobacco, leather and spicy cherry linger on the palate. The wine is aged in French and American oak barrels with 25% being new. Total aging is 18 months in the barrel. On the GVI wine site it sells for $65/bottle and 7300 bottles were produced. This is one of the better Carménère I have tasted in recent years.
To repurpose a phrase, what happens in Chile, does not stay in Chile, but is exported and we get to enjoy some exquisite wines.