Yep, we are still on holiday in Paris! But being thousands of miles away could not possibly keep me from joining in the fun in this month's WBW. And this is one of those times when having the ability to post-date entries comes in very handy (thank you Typepad).
For this Wine Blogging Wednesdays #7: Obscure Red Grape Varieties hosted by Andrew of Spitoon I propose the Carmenère grape in my 2001 Baron Philippe de Rothschild Carmenère Reserva Valle del Rape. This surprisingly lovely wine was found quite serendipitously while enjoying a fabulous dinner a couple weekends ago at Ipanema Grill.
Ipanema is located at the old Wolfgang Puck Cafe on the ground floor of Harbor Steps (First Avenue) here in Seattle. This colorful and roomy churrasquería is the the latest invention of neighborhood restauranteur Marco Casas-Beaux, the friendly and always warm and chatty owner of our favorite Buenos Aires Grill.
According to Dan Miller from Cellarnotes.net the Carmenère grape variety was once heavily planted in Bordeaux but because of problems ripening the crop each year, Carmenère is now almost impossible to find in that region of France. It is used in Chile to make what Mr. Miller calls undistinguished wines when bottled as a single varietal.
Wine Press Northwest on the other hand predicts that Carmenère, a grape that is being cultivated--albeit in very small quantities-- in Washington and Oregon, will "gain a cult following among wine lovers in the know".
So perhaps my little Rothschild Carmenère is a promising sign of good things to come with this humble varietal. This wine was delightful, paired with a meal that was heavy on red meat, mostly grilled. I was quite taken with this easy to drink red that although a bit similar in character to Merlot (my least favorite red grape varietal) had a better structure and more oomph than previously tasted and notoriously wimpy Chilean reds.
The Carmenère, garnet colored, with great legs and a very moderate price to boot, was the perfect companion for a dinner comprised of a few delicious bites:
- Garlic Shrimp with Coconut Mayonnaise ($6.95)
- Beef Croquettes ($3.95)
- Garlic Steak with Fried Bananas and Brazilian Salsa ($6.95)
- Bauru Sandwich with Fries ($5.95)
- Top Sirloin Rodizio ($6.95)
- Pastel de Forno (Beef Empanadas) ($4.95)
and a lovely Pudim de Laranja (Orange Creme Caramel with a Raspberry Coulis) $6.00 with a couple cups of full bodied and quite delicious Brazilian coffee.
Looking the wine up on the web I found this great bit on the Carmenère in an article by Leslie Sbrocco--originally published on Thursday, February 10, 2005-- by the San Francisco Gate titled Good-value varietals will steal your heart
"If you're looking for something less mainstream than Merlot, try Carmenère. This forgotten Bordeaux grape variety that found its way to Chile long ago is making a comeback. For many years Carmenère produced in Chile was mistaken for Merlot due to its similar smoothness, but Carmenère sports a distinctive green-spice complexity that makes it unique.
To discover Chile's signature wine, pick up the 2002 Baron Philippe de Rothschild Reserva Valle del Rapel Carmenère ($10). Made by the Chilean outpost of the famous French firm, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, this bottling is loaded with plummy fruit flavors accented with a whiff of green peppercorns. The colorful red and deep blue label makes this an ideal Cupid's gift."
Caravelle Wine Selections:
Producer: Baron Philippe de Rothschild, Maipo Chile, S.A.
Region: Valle de Rapel
Grape Varieties: 100% Carmenere
Alcohol Strength: 13.4% by volume
Vinification: The grapes are harvested by hand and transported in open baskets to the winery, where they are destemmed and lightly crushed. Fermentation takes place at high temperature in stainless steel vats. The length of the maceration period after fermentation is decided on the basis of daily tastings, vat by vat, and is generally relatively long in order to ensure a balanced, tannic structure. Malolactic fermentation then takes place before final blending. The wine is matured for six to eight months in one-year old oak barrels.
Description: An intense, vivid red with ruby highlights, the wine has an ample, generous nose which opens on aromas of spice (black pepper) and ripe black fruit (plum, blackcurrant). From a full and crisp attack with pleasantly harmonious oak, it develops a round, rich and silky body leading into a long, rich and lingering finish with a hint of bitter chocolate.
Serving Tips: Best when paired with pasta in red sauce, game, lamb and grilled beef.
Bottle Size: 750ml
Interesting Facts: Valle del Rapel – Ideal Carmenère country, is more than 150 miles south of Santiago, situated between the Andes to the Pacific Coast. The Rapel Valley is relatively unaffected by the temperate maritime climate and the cool air of the Andes, with temperatures contrastins sharply between spring and summer. Two particularly high-quality vineyards, which are less than ten miles apart have been chosen; Los Robles- north-facing slope of the valley with deep clay-loam soil, and Las Palmeras – also has clay-loam soil, but over deep, sandy sub-soil. The level of the water table furnishes a plentiful water supply throughout the year, which is particularly important for the Carmenère grape.
For your consideration: Wine Pick Of The Week: 2003 Santa Rita Reserve Carmenère ($10)
Suggested reading on Carmenère: When I first heard about Carmenère, I was certain it was a hoax. by Sandy Block, MW
Ipanema Brazilian Grill
1225 1st Avenue
Seattle, WA 98101
Happy Hour: 4-7, 10 to closing