Wine Time: Maquis Carménère 2011, Chile

COST: $19-21


WHAT: Chile consistently produces high quality wines, year after year, and the Maquis Carménère (Car-Men-Yehr) is a great example of that quality.

It’s a smooth, silky wine, with plenty of spicy fruit, particularly blackberry, without being overextracted or jammy. The first hint of what’s to come is in the nose, bursting with cherry and blackberry notes as well as some laurel and rosemary.

It has a beautiful deep red color. The flavors are blackberry, plum and raspberry, with a long, dry finish. There are some nice notes of tobacco on the finish, along with some oak. The tannins are sweet, not bitter, and good acidity balances the fruit nicely.

After the wine is opened, it will continue to develop for a long time. While it is enjoyable sipping by itself, the wine really shows itself when paired with food.

The grapes are all hand picked and sorted before being fermented in stainless steel. Then 50 percent of the wine is aged for 10 months in second and third use French Oak barrels and 50 percent in stainless steel tanks.

The Maquis vineyards are on an island where two rivers meet, the Tinguiririca River and the Chimbarongo Creek. The Colchagua Valley is home to some of the best wines in Chile, and the unique terroir of the Maquis property gives that wine an extra boost of intensity, character, fruitiness and mineral elements. I think this wine will get better through the years, as the vines mature and develop more character.

I have had a long love affair with wines from Chile, particularly those from the Colchagua Valley where ocean breezes and runoff from the Andes Mountains produce great conditions for growing grapes.

While Chile produces a wide variety of great wines, Carménère is the country’s signature grape. It originated in Bordeaux, but it virtually disappeared from Europe during the phylloxera plague. It was brought to Chile in the mid-19th century, where it disappeared in vineyards planted with Merlot.

Major development of Carménère only began in 1994 when DNA tests revealed that much of the Merlot in Chile was actually Carménère. The late-ripening grape does much better in Chile than in Bordeaux, where it often had to be picked before it was fully ripe.

Each Maquis label features a piece of silver jewelry used as an adornment by the Mapuches, who are local indigenous Chileans. The indigenous Mapuche community, which settled in the Colchagua Valley and elsewhere in Chile, is renowned for its silverwork, with simple forms and deep symbolic meaning.

WINERY: The Hurtado family has owned Viña Maquis since 1916. The vineyards are on a unique piece of property that was once owned by Chilean President Federico Errazuriz Echaurren.

The family built a state-of-the-art gravity flow winery in 2002 and set out to make the Maquis winery one of the great properties in South America. The winery’s focus is on distinctive single-vineyard, estate wines, as well as producing balanced wines that are not over-ripe (resulting in excessively high alcohol) but also not exhibiting any of the “green” character that sometimes plagues wines picked from grapes that have not fully matured.

Winemakers Ricardo Rivadeneira and Rodrigo Romero make wines that reflect the geography of their vineyards.

Maquis has worked with consulting winemaker Xavier Choné since 2005. Choné pays close attention to soil conditions, the spacing of the vines, and the timing of the harvest to produce sophisticated wines with concentrated flavors.

Maquis also uses the blending talents of Bordeaux’s Eric Boissenot. Several times a year Rivadeneira will travel to Bordeaux to work on the final blends of the Maquis wines with Boissenot, who with his late father, Jacques, was named “Blenders of the Decade” by Decanter magazine.

Maquis also produces Cabernet Sauvignon; Cabernet Franc; Cabernet Franc Rose; a blend of Carménère, Syrah, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot; and a blend of the best vineyards of Carménère and Cabernet Franc. The Cabernet Franc stands out as particularly notable, and provides a faithful representation of the winery’s unique terroir.

Maquis works with Global Vineyard, a national wine importer with distribution in more than 40 U.S. states whose mission is to import distinctive, appellation-based wines principally from South America (Chile, Argentina and Uruguay) with a focus on family-owned wineries and artisan, estate-based properties.

GOES WITH: I love tacos. We seem to have taco night regularly at our house. Sometimes it’s hard to come up with a wine that pairs well with these delightful treats, but I think the Maquis Carménère is perfect.

This time, we made the tacos with leftover meat from a turkey I had baked. It’s easy to cut up the turkey, and warm it in the sauce you create with those powdered mixes. I buy the taco spices in a big jar so I can make tacos or casseroles frequently.

I bought the salsa from Vallarta’s because homemade isn’t very good when tomatoes are not in season. Then we just cut up tomatoes, onions, lettuce and cheese, and Teri and I built our own tacos.

The rich smoothness of the Carménère calms down the spices in the meat and in the salsa. And the natural spiciness of Carménère perfectly matches the tacos.

The Carménère would pair well with red meat on the grill, hearty cheeses, rich soups and stews, wild game and all spicy foods.



Wine and tapas tasting, 5 p.m. until closing, La Maison on Telfair, 404 Telfair St.; four wines and three tapas, $25; (706) 722-4805

FEB. 6-7

Wine and beer tasting, 4:30-6:30 p.m. Friday, 2-6 p.m Saturday, Vineyard Wine Market, 4414 Evans to Locks Road, Evans; (706) 922-9463


Wine tasting, 5-8 p.m., Wine World, 133 Georgia Ave., North Augusta; $5 with rebate a bottle of a featured wine; (803) 279-9522

Wine tasting, 5-7 p.m., Whole Foods, 2907 Washington Road, five glasses for $5, with snacks and a seafood sample. Get wine tickets at the service counter; (762) 333-0260



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