2009 Ventisquero Queulat Single Vineyard Carmenere Maipo Valley 14% $20
Nicely intense on the nose with black currant and black cherry fruit framed with leather, ripe herbs, really well integrated oak, and some lovely tomato leaf nuances. Quite fresh and rather light bodied in the mouth with a very attractive texture. Theres some weight from the tannins here and juicy acidity that lends freshness to the black cherry rut. I expected this to be a bit more complex based on the nose but it's elegant and fresh with a medium length finish that is layered with herb and toast notes accenting the black cherry fruit.  88pts

2008 Santa Carolina Reserva de Familia Valle del Rapel, 14.5%, $18
Caramel, roasted chili, cedar and black cherry create a somewhat discordant note on the nose, though the wood elements do become more aggressive with air adding some black licorice spice. In the mouth this is rich and flannelly, with a very smooth feel at first that then becomes a bit more facetted as the rather assertive tannins come to the fore. The fruit is dark but somewhat anonymous with the oak stifling much else. The finish is a bit hot, modestly long and drying. This is an unabashedly oaky wine with some signs of overripeness that will appeal to others more than me. 86pts

2010 Santa Carolina Reserva Valle del Rapel, 14%, $12
Smoky and spicy on the nose, with plummy fruit and a vegetal background note. A bit round and sweetly fruited on entry with some dusty tannins that draw the wine down in the mouth, though it does have freshening acidity. The fruit is rather dark and a bit heavy with spicy oak adding more depth in the mouth. The finish seems a bit oak-driven with a wash of vanilla on the finale. 86pts

2010 Casillero del Diablo Reserva Rapel Valley, 13.5%, $10
A bit low-key but nicely deep with well-integrated wood, earth, blackberry and herbal components. Rich in the mouth with well-integrated tannins and finely supporting acidity. The fruit leans a bit towards the red end of the spectrum with fairly noticeable spice notes popping up on the back end and leading to a fairly long finish with some uncovered wood tannins. I would like to see a bit more acidity here, but this does have some nice character. 86pts

2010 Frontera Carmenere Central Valley, 13%, $6
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

2009 Hacienda Araucano Reserva Valle de Colchagua, 14%, $15
Peppery and spicy on the nose with some candied blueberry fruit and a nice touch of black currant, with a minty herbal top note. A bit round on entry with a fairly polished feel that’s bolstered by the woody sweetness on the mid-palate. This is bright with nice juicy fruit but that extra touch of sweetness sticks around on the finish making this a bit less flattering. 85pts

2009 Cono Sur Colchagua Valley, 13.5%, $10
Sweet tart on the nose with some compost, herbaceous notes over a bit of pickle barrel. This is fairly low in acid, sort of lying across the palate with a nice low intensity core of blueberry and sour cherry fruit that leads to a short, slightly drying finish. 84pts

2009 Vina Misiones de Rengo Carmenere Reserva, 14.5%, $15
This smells a bit unusual with a noticeable old grapefruit/passionfruit top note over aggressively dark, earthy, medicinal aromas. So smooth as to be featureless with low acid and creamy, soft, slightly anonymous fruit, framed with somewhat aggressive oak tones and faint herbaceous notes. This seems like a Carmenere that’s running away from being Carmenere. A big wine for lovers of big wines but there’s not much here. 84pts

2010 Eco Balance Valle Centrale Emiliana Vineyards, 14%, $10
Tight and focused on the nose, with a bit of a harsh wood element that covers the slightly roasted black fruit. This is round and plump on the palate but it lacks some detail and balance. The acids are a bit cutting and the fruit a touch heavy and dull, with lots of oaky sweetness on the back end that transitions into moderately dry tannins on the modest finish. With air the black cherry fruit here does pop nicely with the oak, generally adding a nice spice note but the mouthfeel doesn’t work for me. 83pts

2010 Santa Rita 120 Valle Central, 13.5%, $8
Pretty fruity on the nose with some gentle vegetal tones and plenty of sweet/spicy vanilla-toned oak. This is rich and a touch soft in the mouth with nice red fruits over an earthy base. The oak is noticeable and a touch aggressive on the palate, but is fairly well-balanced by the fruit. On the finish, though, it tends to dominate with dry tannins and tarry choco/tobacco flavors. 83pts

Check out tasting notes for 7 Top Carmeneres