Mon 14 Jun 2010
I get so many inexpensive wines from Chile that my heart sinks when I empty a box and see one more carménère. Do not, however, neglect this one.
The Viu Manent Reserva Carménère 2008, Valle de Colchagua, is certainly the best wine made from carménère grapes that I have tried so far this year. Guess what? It doesn’t taste like merlot or cabernet sauvignon, which I consider a real feat, because the principal flaw in inexpensive red wines from Chile (and Argentina) is that they all taste alike. In Argentina, of course, one substitutes malbec — otherwise universally known as “the hope and future of Argentina’s wine industry” — for Chile’s carménère.
Anyway, the Viu Manent Reserva Carménère 2008 is 100 percent carménère grapes, aged 11 months in a combination of French (87 percent) and American (13 percent) oak barrels. Here’s a wine that layers personality over character, from high notes of red currants, Damson plums and blackberries to touches of dried cranberry and cloves and leather to depths of tar, Oolong tea and graphite-like minerality. A few minutes in the glass bring in elements of bitter chocolate and mocha, violets and lavender, briers and brambles and a sense of mossy earthiness. Finally: wood-smoke, spicy wood, smoky spice. LL and I drank this gratefully with seared and baked pork chops under a crust of salt and pepper, chili powder and ground cumin, garlic and lime zest. The alcohol content is 14.5 percent. Now through 2012 or ’13. Very good+. About $14.
Viu Manent — a combination of two family names — was founded in 1935, making it a pioneer in Colchagua. The winery produces five lines or labels that vary in price from about $9 to $75. Colchagua Valley is a zone within the larger Rapel Valley region, about 150 kilometers or about 93 miles south of Santiago.
Imported by Baystate Wine & Spirits, Avon, Mass. A sample for review.