WHAT: Now that the holidays are over and winter weather has settled in, it’s time to find some hearty, rich red wines that warm you up with a big meal or while sitting around a roaring fire.
One of the best that I have come across in recent months is this San Pedro single vineyard carmenere. It has everything you could want in a red wine: aroma, luscious taste, good weight and a pleasant finish.
It is a deep and intense violet red in the glass with elegant, spicy aromas. On the palate are flavors of black cherry, blackberry and plum. It has a rich mouthfeel with ripe tannins and acidity that lead to a long, smooth finish. It is a delightful wine.
The grapes come from the Maule Valley in the foothills of the Andes Mountains. The vines grow in thin, rocky alluvial soil, ideal for grape vines. The average age of the vines is 20 years.
After harvest, the grapes went through cold maceration for six days followed by fermentation with select yeasts at controlled temperatures. After fermentation the wine was macerated on the lees for another 28 days. The wine was aged in French (90 percent) and American (10 percent) oak barrels for 12 months. Half of the barrels were new and half were second-use.
Carmenere is an amazing grape that makes great comfort wine. It is a grape that originated in Bordeaux, one of the original six grapes of Bordeaux. It was thought to be extinct there, though some growers still have some vines.
It was transported to Chile, where for decades growers thought it was a clone of merlot, and it was often planted mixed with merlot vines. It wasn’t until 1994 that a university researcher identified the carmenere in Chile. The government there officially recognized it as a distinct variety in 1998.
Though Chile produces many great wines, carmenere is widely considered the signature grape of Chile. Its tannins are gentler than cabernet sauvignon, so the young wines often are more approachable than young cabs. The folks at San Pedro say this wine will continue to develop in the bottle for 6-8 years, but I have never had carmenere older than about four years, so I can’t confirm that.
San Pedro makes several other single-vineyard wines under the 1865 label: cabernet sauvignon, pinot noir, syrah, malbec and sauvignon blanc.
WINERY: Viña San Pedro has been making wine since 1865 when the Correa Albano brothers brought grape vines from Europe. Today it is one of the largest and oldest exporters of Chilean wines.
It is part of the VSPT Wine Group, the third largest viticultural group in Chile and the second largest exporter of Chilean wine.
San Pedro’s main vineyard, wine cellar and 100-year-old underground cava cellar are located in Molina, in Curicó Valley, south of Santiago, where it has nearly 3,000 acres. In Central Valley it has 3,700 acres. The company also has vineyards in the other major growing regions of Chile.
San Pedro has made a major commitment to the environment with practices aimed at creating sustaining production. It also has made a commitment to support its workers and their families as well as a long-term contribution to the communities where San Pedro farms.
It makes wine under many labels, including Altaïr, Cabo de Hornos, Sideral, Kankana del Elqui, Tierras Moradas, 1865, Epica, Castillo de Molina, 35 SUR and GatoNegro.
Chief enologist Marco Puyo leads the wine making team at VSPT. His style is characterized by elegance and clear expression of the grapes, developed through experience he gained with major producers in Bordeaux, Burgundy and Champagne. He also has extensive experience with other Chilean wineries.
GOES WITH: We had this gorgeous wine with a grilled pork tenderloin, and it was terrific. I rubbed the tenderloin with some Hawaiian spices and herbs and a generous sprinkling of Morton Nature’s Seasons.
Then I grilled the meat over a low heat for about 30 minutes, just enough to cook it without drying it out. When I cut into the tenderloin there was still juice, but no pink meat.
The lively fruit flavors of the wine went perfectly with the grilled pork. We added baked potatoes and peas to round out the meal.
The 1865 carmenere also would pair well with steaks, grilled pork chops, pheasant, risotto and strong cheeses.