Today's Wine Favorite: Carmenere

Santa Alicia Reserva Carmenere 2006

As a wine consultant, I can tell you that you don't have to pay an arm and a leg for a great bottle of wine.  Today's wine is bold, ripe and delicious, with tiers of rich plum, chocolate and black cherry flavor, with elegant toasted oak and smooth polished tannins. Santa Alicia Reserva Carmenere 2006 is reasonably priced under $20.00.

The carmenere grape has a very interesting history. It was originally planted in the Médoc region of Bordeaux, France, where it was used to produce deep red wines and occasionally used for blending purposes in the same manner as Petit Verdot. In 1867, the phylloxera plague destroyed all the vineyards of Europe, afflicting the Carménère grapevines in particular such that for many years the grape was presumed extinct. Or so they thought. Cuttings of Carménère were imported by Chilean growers from Bordeaux during the 19th century, where they were frequently confused with Merlot vines. As it turns out, they were planted in the valleys around Santiago, Chile. Thanks to Chile's minimal rainfall during the growing season and the protection of the country's natural boundaries, growers produced healthier crops of Carménère and there was no spread of phylloxera. During most of the 20th century Carménère was inadvertently collected and processed together with Merlot grapes. Chilean growers believed that this grape was actually a clone of Merlot. In the mid 1990's it was confirmed that an earlier-ripening vine was Bordeaux Carménère, not Merlot. The Chilean Department of Agriculture officially recognized Carménère as a distinct variety in 1998.Today, Carménère thrives primarily in Chile's Colchagua Valley, Rapel Valley, and Maipo Province.

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