Day 11 – 12 days of Wine – Chile and Carménère
Vistamar 2020 Reserva Carménère, Maule Valley, Chile
I dream of visiting Chile. As I was studying regions to become a Certified Specialist of Wine, I began studying Chile and was enthralled. This sliver of a country in the southern hemisphere stretches almost 2,700 miles north to south and is narrow, with only a few places that it is wider east to west than 100 miles.
Its northern end is the Atacama desert, one of the driest places on the planet, while to the south, you have the stunning Tierra del Fuego frozen archipelago, the Chilean Fjords, and Chilean Antarctica. What a fantastic array of climates.
Chile is one of South America’s most stable and prosperous nations. It has also been blessed in being phylloxera free (the root louse that wiped out vineyards across Europe) as far as grapes go, so own-rooted vines abound.
It’s not been that long since Carménère had its coming-out party. In 1994, this grape that had been in Chile for a century, which everyone had believed was Merlot, was discovered to be Carménère.
This sneaky grape with leaves so close in appearance to Merlot had managed to escape France and head to Chile. Good thing too! Carménère in France was all but lost to phylloxera. Until the French ampelographer, Jean Michel Bousiquot, rediscovered it masquerading as Merlot in Chile, this grape was thought to be lost. Since then, more Carménère was discovered in Italy, where it was impersonating Cabernet Franc.
Carménère was once widely grown in Medoc within the Bordeaux region. Cabernet Franc is one of its parents, and it inherited those Cab Franc pyrazines, which lend it herbaceous green notes. It is also a late-ripening grape. Luckily, in Chile, it has found a home where it can ripen until May (think November in the Northern hemisphere).
So how does this wine taste? Carménère has notes of blackberry and blueberry, spices like cinnamon, and peppery notes like paprika that sometimes can even be a bit like green bell pepper. You get notes of tarragon, licorice, and vanilla.
Vistamar was created in 1999 by the founder of the Morande Wine Group. They began in the Casablanca Valley, later expanding to Cachapoal, Andes, Limari, and the Maule Valleys.
They looked for places where the grapes could slowly ripen, cool climate areas, what they charmingly call on their website ‘terroirs of joyful grapes.’
Vistamar 2020 Reserva Carménère
The vineyards for this wine are in the Maule Valley, influenced by the coast and the Andes. The grapes were harvested at the end of April 2020 (remember, we are in the southern hemisphere here.) The grapes’ soils are alluvial, which means they were brought here by a river. Twenty-five percent of the wine ages for 6 months in neutral barrels.
The first thing that hit my nose was pepper, like poblano pepper, then blueberry and blueberry compote. Warm, savory spices appear as well as tarragon and licorice.
13.5% abv $10.99 Total Wine $9.89 Vivino
Why we chose this wine
The Morande Wine Group has pledged to work sustainably to be a benchmark in the industry for environmentally friendly practices.
They were the first company in Chile to be certified in all areas of the ‘El Código de sustentabilidad’ from the Certified Sustainable Wine of Chile organization in 2012, including their Vistamar winery.
They also verify their water and carbon footprints to calculate and manage their reduction or compensation.
Their goal is to create a link between their company and the environment to influence the people and community positively.
Mini stuffed sweet peppers with mole sauce
Carménère often has a note of pepper, bell, or poblano. We decided to embrace that with our pairing doing a riff on stuffed peppers. Of course, you can’t fit a regular-size stuffed pepper on a spoon, so we went mini! To amp them up a bit, we decided to serve them with a mole.
For the stuffing, we went simple with sausage, mushrooms, shallot, and wild rice. I amped the wild rice up a bit using Uncle Ben’s. Their seasoning mix is delicious, so I decided I didn’t need to reinvent the wheel here. If you have a delicious wild rice recipe, by all means, substitute that!
We went mild on our mole, adjusting it to fit our taste. Feel free to increase the chipotle in your version for more spice.
Check out our book series, “Tempting Spoonfuls” available through Amazon!
Inspired by the flavors and aromas in wines, this book creates “tempting spoonfuls” of flavors to pair with wines.
Robin has always had a love for spoons, with a drawer full of them in all different shapes and sizes. There is comfort in eating something from a spoon and something very sensual also.
Creating a spoon filled with flavors and aromas that will be eaten in a single bite, allowing the flavors to meld and pop in your mouth, is a joyful endeavor, and you are encouraged to make these your own.
The spoons range from savory to sweet, with something for everyone, and while they are paired with wines, they are delicious on their own.
These recipes are wonderful for appetizers and hors d’oeuvres or simple to create something delicious to spoil yourself, much like a pint of ice cream.
Each of these spoons is paired with a specific wine, and you get a bit of background on the wine, its flavors, aromas, and a bit of its story. She also includes other suggestions for wines to pair with the spoon.
The book is a feast for your eyes, with photos of each layered spoonful.
There are also photos of the wines with the elements of their flavor profile surrounding them. Those elements often inspire the pairing.
The goal is to make your mouth water and encourage you to create your own “Tempting Spoonfuls.”
“Tempting Spoonfuls – Pairing single bites with glorious wines” – Our first book paired wines from boutique wineries on the west coast, in California, Oregon, and Washington, with delicious spoonfuls.
This book is 60 pages, 18 recipes, lots of beautiful photos, and insights into some fantastic small wineries!
“Tempting Spoonfuls – small bites paired with wines from around the Globe” – This book takes us around the globe to explore 12 wine regions, a wine from the region, and then gives you a recipe for a pairing!
A slightly larger book at 104 pages, this time you learn about pairing with a type of wine from a region. Rather than a specific bottle, you can look for a style of wine from a region and feel confident that it will go well with the recipe pairing we provide. We give you 12 recipes, each to pair with a wine.
Either of these books gives you wonderful recipes to create appetizer spoons to pair with wines for a party!
Robin Renken is a wine writer and Certified Specialist of Wine and WSET 3 Certified. She and her husband Michael travel to wine regions interviewing vineyard owners and winemakers and learning the stories behind the glass.
When not traveling they indulge in cooking and pairing wines with food at home in Las Vegas.