Week 28 – Carmenere

We tasted: Pintao Carmenere by Casa Silva £10 Marks and Spencer

Emma says: “I had originally scheduled the next two weeks to be South American wines to time with my annual trip to those countries. Sadly those trips were postponed at the last minute which means I’m now sitting in 30 degree summer heat trying to enjoy a ripe and rich Carmenere.

I decided to try to make the most of the unexpected situation by testing out a food and wine matching theory. Carmenere has a generally accepted spicy character that sets it apart from other grapes. I detect it a bit like spicy red peppercorns or those padron peppers you get in tapas bars. So I cooked up an Indian feast that had a spicy daal and a good dose of red chilli in everything. The test being that food matches are often based on “like for like” flavours in food and wine so I wanted to see if it would work. The truth is – NO. The effect of base room temperature, wine and food was all a bit overwhelming. So I had to leave the glass of wine to taste again later.

Back to the wine, I chose Casa Silva “Pintao” Carmenere, because I know the winery well and think they are the absolute masters of bringing the best out in this grape. In our last newsletter I mentioned that some no-so-good Carmeneres can be thin green and bitter tasting. As a winery they have taken great care to plant just the right variation of Carmenere that has the ability to ripen well in their valley Colchuagua. They took me through their vineyards last year and told me the secret of their good Carmenere was all about how they grow the grapes rather than what they do in the winery.

I was pleased that my first sniff gave a definite breeze of grilled peppers, in tandem with a pleasing note of ripe cherries and also refreshing menthol notes. To taste the fruit is really exuberant but not at all jammy, more raspberry, hints of rhubarb and orange peel with all that powerful spice overlaying it nicely. This is a full bodied red and it does leave with a warm feel in the back of the mouth. It would probably be better suited to a winter’s day but once we chilled it a little it seemed to work far better. And as a final point I love the fact this wine isn’t smothered in oak that tend to give the wine a tutti fruity confected character and a bigger grip. It means you can really taste the grape which is exactly what our adventure is all about.

Andy says: “I was on a winery tour with Emma a few years ago and was lucky enough to taste a Carmenere straight from the barrel. ‘Ooh, tastes like jalapeños!’, I said.

I can’t express enough how jalapeño-y it was. It was like a, ‘Is this made from jalapeños, or grapes?’ kinda thing. Emma then informed me that that is a classic tasting note for this wine, so I was quite happy. And I’ve been looking forward to this one to see if I had the same reaction. Unfortunately I didn’t, but I definitely get green bell pepper, so the same family at least.

Colour wise, using the handy Winefolly chart again, I’m going for medium to deep purple. Tannin wise, I’ll let you into another little secret of mine, and that’s this blog post that lists out nice descriptions. So, from that list I’m heading toward rounded. There’s not so much as a grip, more of a quick, gentle hug of the tongue.

I tasted this twice, the first time with the same meal as Emma, and it was okay but not great. The wine was too warm, I think. The second time I had it well chilled, as we’d put it in the fridge and forgotten about it for a day. Straight out the fridge it was no disaster, but it was a hot day so maybe just cold liquid was all I needed. 15 minutes later as it warmed, it opened up. On the ‘like it – don’t like it’ scale, it’s up at the ‘like it’ end.”

Buying Guide

Carmenere is to Chile what Malbec is to Argentina. It originated in Bordeaux, France but seems to have found a better home in Chile where it fully ripens. It is best to try an example that is a little above entry price because cheaper versions can be a bit light and green. The valley in Chile where it tends to show at its best is Colchuagua; so we will be searching out that style.

5 thoughts to “Week 28 – Carmenere”

  1. Wine -Pintao Carmenere, Casa Silva (M&S £10)
    Bottle says – black cherries, plums and spices

    (I’m a bit late with this one; blame the weather.)

    Definitely peppers on the nose, with a hint of damson, cherries, black pepper, and a tiny bit of hazelnut. The aroma was almost overpowering at room temperature (28 degrees atm), but 20 mins in the fridge, and it became more manageable and also added a silkiness to the wine which suited it really well. The flavour consisted of damson, plums, liquorice, tar, and of course peppers. The finish was slightly bitter, in a vegetal way, but certainly not unpleasant.
    I have had Carmanere before, but I don’t remember it being as nice as this particular example.
    I thought that this wine had the exaggerated profile of a good quality Australian Shiraz, i.e. everything ‘turned up to 11’, and rather ‘in your face’. To be honest, I didn’t expect a wine this good for a tenner. I will be buying this again (probably by the case) and look forward to trying it in the winter, or when the weather is not playing silly buggers. Marvellous.

  2. Colour-wise it was medium purple (quite dark). The nose was very much led by a distinctive vegetal greenness – lashings of green pepper, grilled aubergine and leaves. I understand that this is a sign of a lesser Carmenere but I didn’t mind it too much. I like my wines quite charismatic and this had earthy back garden flair, channelling its inner Barbara from the Good Life. The greenes did rather dominate though – I didn’t get much of the jalapeno spiciness. It did also have a creamy vanilla oakiness and an underlying scent of cherry and brambly berries.

    To taste it was full bodied, dry and very strong. It had a nice silky smooth texture and well balanced tannins. Otherwise, there wasn’t that much flavour or length, despite the weight. Those vegetal and oaky elements were present again.

    Overall, I don’t think I spent enough to get the best of grape. It was interesting in its rustic greenness and I didn’t dislike it, but I’d say it was one of those ‘half the bottle in the glass, half in the pasta sauce’ wines.

      1. Sounds like you need to try the one we had – Andy actually really loved it chilled, so it could be one that will be falling into our summer reds category…

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