Six Chilean Carmeneres To Grab For The Holidays

It's been a couple of months since the teaser for these reviews was published. Taking my time with each wine since then has been a pleasurable task.

Unlike the Chilean sauvignon blancs that were spotlighted here last year - which were so stylistically diverse as to defy a unifying description - these carmeneres can easily be seen as having a familial resemblance, despite being from different regions around Chile. Though I've had other carms with rounder, more plush fruit, and an "international style" application of oak, these samples all share characteristics of vibrant hillside flowers, elegant structure, freshness of fruit, and balanced acidity.  These shared qualities ought to make marketing Chilean carmenere simpler. Alas, penetrating the US market with its Twinkie-loving palates with something like this is a challenge. While that work continues, this overlooked variety is likely to remain a good value for those with an appetite for those commonalities.

Another bonus: these wines are consistently very good (all easily north of the 90 point mark,) suggesting that, if you can't find these specific bottlings, your experimentation will be rewarded with similar findings.

In order of price, not of preference:

2020 Montes Wings Carmenere Apalta $55 
Almost black and opaque, this inky beast does not wait for you to stick your nose in it before revealing it's gregarious aromatics. Supercharged violets, black fruit, and wafting elegance make quite a first impression. In the mouth, the attack is primarily defined by an acidic backbone, followed quickly by structured black and red fruit, and oak that is in balance with all the other components. Young and in need of breathing, but fantastic nevertheless.

2020 TerraNoble Carmenere Costa CA2 Colchagua $36 
Very dark and a bit cloudy, with a thick core and ruby edges. The attractive nose is intoxicating with pretty flowers and dusty oak. Pyrazines make an appearance in the balanced profile, featuring black and blue fruit, and green vegetables. Classically Chilean and likely ageworthy. As it had a chance to breathe, an X factor emerged that made this every bit the wine the Wings is. Boom!

2020 Primus Carmenere Apalta $21
Deepest purple and a gorgeous bouquet of pretty floral and herbs. On the palate is what Veramonte does so consistently well under the Primus label: big fruit balanced by - and in balance with - focused acidity and a sturdy structure. Harmonious, versatile, and a terrific value.

2021 Morandé Vitis Única Carmenere Maipo $20
A beautiful wine that whispers its attractiveness rather than shouts it. Underplaying pyrazines without betraying its provenance, the middleweight heft is delivered with a supple texture and easygoing posture. Consistent with other wines in this lineup in terms of its flavor profile and structure, but the most relaxed of the bunch, making it very approachable. Dollar for dollar, pound for pound, my favorite of these six.

2020 InVina Luma Chequen Gran Reserva Carmenere Maule $17 
Just a little bit of patience gets past the initial impressions of this being an older wine - 15 minutes of air in a decanter blew the tired balsamic character away, revealing a lovely wine, very much in keeping with its siblings from this lineup. Deep violet core with pretty flowers, lacy acidity, and just enough green vegetable to let you know it's honest to its heritage. Three days after opening, it remained fresh and precise, typically a reliable indicator of ageworthiness.

2020 Viña San Esteban 'In Situ' Carmenere Reserva Aconcagua $13
Pleasant, fresh, and perfumed, this fruit-forward value is lively and a bit chunky, making it quite versatile. Straightforward and direct, though not overbearing at all. Very gulpable, especially at this terrific price.