7 Top Carmenere Wines

Find amazing value and flavor in these great picks


Like most of the world’s great wines, there are good values to be found at every price level for Chilean Carmenere. And as is all too frequently the case, some of the more expensive examples try too hard to overdeliver and succeed with lots of jammy fruit and oak while some of the less expensive wines tend to actually overdeliver with fun pure fruit, simply because tricks are not covered in their budget.

Map courtesy Kobrand

2010 Frontera Carmenere Central Valley, 13%, $6

Best Value Winner

Some toast and sweet wood spice on the nose balances some black currant fruit with a nice herbaceous underlay. This is a nicely balanced, slightly small-scaled wine in the mouth with good acidity, nice freshness to the smoky, slightly earthy black currant fruit and a nice bed of fine-grained yet austere tannins. The finish is a touch coarse and woody, but the fruit does pop on the finale. Reminds me of modest Bordeaux. 85pts

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2009 Aromo Estate Bottled Maule Valley, 13.5%, $10

Value Winner

A bit tight on the nose with nice mineral components playing off the cigar box oak and gentle cherry fruit that’s wrapped around a soft vegetal bass note. This enters the mouth with nice balance, offering sweet fruit that has a certain transparency and juicy, fruity acidity in a fun package. There are soft tannins adding to the supple nature of this wine and the fruit powers through the mid-palate in an obvious but never rude way, then fades rather quickly leaving one with a quite earthy and lightly toasted oak finale. I think the finish here might improve with some time, but this already is quite good. 89pts

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2007 Hacienda Araucano Alka Colchagua Valley, 14.5%, $50

This is fairly sweet and candied on the nose with smoky, asphalt notes and hints of bitter chocolate and chalk over a deep coulis of astringent red fruits. This is lush with the acid almost completely hidden until the mid-palate, where it pops through the cover of fruit lending brightness to the astringent red fruited mid-palate. There’s a lovely playful skin of tannin that fills in under the fruit adding some firmness to the palate, and rich tobacco and chocolate tones that adds fine complexity. This grows nicely in the glass with good freshness and clarity. Though the cocoa gets a bit much for me, the chocolate-laced finish is long and ends with a fine edge. 93pts

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2009 Apaltagua Envero Gran Reserva Colchagua Valley Apalta Vineyard Selection, 14%, $15

Nicely aromatic with deep black currant fruit and attractive roast red pepper and herbal elements framed by well-judged toasty oak and carob nuances. Big and powerful in the mouth with a blocky, inelegant feel on entry, as all the structure is completely wrapped in this rich yet silky fruit. It’s a slightly surprising wine and it takes some time to fully warm up to since the aromatics promised more nuance than the palate currently delivers, but this has excellent potential many will enjoy this today for all its sumptuous ripeness. But on the finish, the fruit lightens up somewhat, revealing more red fruits and allowing hints of the aromatic complexity of the nose to return. The acidity on the finish is very refreshing and the tannins superbly fine, allowing a nice tobacco leaf, nutmeg, spice element to roll out on the finale. 91pts

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2009 Aromo Private Reserve Carmenere Maule Valley, 13.5%, $15

Fairly minty on the nose but at the same time focused and clear, with a very pretty array of earth, oak, spice and crisp fine herb notes that come together nicely. This has plenty of weight but it’s still well-balanced with juicy acidity and lovely fine tannins that are embedded in the rich blackberry fruit. The backend shows wood tannin and nice tobacco leaf and spiced notes with wild blueberries on the finish. I would like to see some more length here, but this marries power and elegance quite nicely with a really lovely integration of fruit and oak. New World and unabashed, but pretty delicious. I have to add that I don’t mind herbaceousness in my Carmenere, but this has very little and yet manages to be fresh. 91pts

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2008 Montes Alpha Colchagua Valley Marchigue Vineyard, 14.5%, $22

A hint of VA greets the nose followed by rather wooly, vaguely animal notes and plenty of shaved bitter chocolate all piled up over dried red berry fruits. On entry, this is rather focused and elegant; but it balloons in the mouth, revealing impressive concentration and depth. The fruit remains youthful but not fruity and while the oak is prominent, it’s balanced out by the fruit. This grows into a rich, almost chewy wine with a nice blend of roasted coffee bean, toasty spice and nuanced herb notes all accenting the subtle fruit. The finish is dark, spicy and oily, recalling coffee beans and licorice with a peppery spice on the finale. 91pts

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2009 Marques de Casa Concha Peumo, 14%, $20

This is tight on the nose with aromatic French oak and a small core of rather precise, lightly candied black currant/blackberry fruit peeking out. A touch soft in the mouth, this nonetheless is well-balanced with a nice combination of weight and intensity. Like the nose, one gets an impression of a wine not giving up its all but what is here is very attractive: red and black currant fruit, a nice streak of earth, a hint of caramel from the oak, all leading to a lovely finish that is moderately long and fruit-driven (though not fruity), with the oak lurking until the finale, where it adds some peppery spice. 91pts

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  • Snooth User: klhoskins
    840823 0

    What ever happened to the little guys out there that are making great wines? Alvaro Espinoza from GEO who is one of most respected and innovative winemakers in Chile, producing wines from the Maipo Valley "Isla de Maipo" (Chono) or Rapel Valley (Rayun). Great wines for the price!

    Sep 09, 2011 at 6:28 PM

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