Friday, May 13, 2011

Chile Redux: Santa Carolina Carmenere

Right around the time that the Wines of Chile blogger tasting was going on, I was sent some samples from Santa Carolina as well. Things got rather hectic and as a result, those Santa Carolina samples sat in my wine fridge for a while, resting until I could start working through each bottle.

The first wine I opened was the 2009 Santa Carolina Reserva Carmenere, from the Rapel Valley. Priced at right around $10, it's a great entry into both Chilean wines and the varietal carmenere. My own expereicnes with carmenere to this point consisted of tasting the offerings from Concha y Toro's Casillero del Diablo, some Chilean wines with carmenere in them, and random tastes through my near-decade in the business. Suffice it to say that carmenere is not a varietal I experience often. Some of you are probably familiar with the Santa Carolina brand though, as it has been around for a while, producing all manner of red and white wines. Why would they then send out samples to bloggers? The answer lies in the new direction the winery is going. Starting in the very recent past, the Santa Carolina has begun to embrace it's heritage and history as part of a "Chilean Heritage" campaign.

After opening and letting the Santa Carolina carmenere breathe for an hour, I was ready to give it a thorough inspection. That's what wine bloggers are for, right? Carmenere is dark, very purple hued and opaque. At first glance, this reminded me of petite sirah or even zinfandel. For a long time, the carmenere was thought to be merlot and it wasn't "discovered" as merlot until 1994.

The first thing I noticed besides the color was that the wine had a potent, complex bouquet. I could smell specific aromas emanating from the glass despite it being a meter away from me. Lots of black pepper, earth, tar, and dried herbs jumped out at me. The Santa Carolina Carmenere bursts with aromatic intensity, and wafting up behind those primary aromas were hints of green pepper and blueberry preserves. In truth, I was surprised at how complex the nose was, I expected a more one-dimensional wine. Nothing like a pleasant surprise during a wine review, right?

A few sips in, I was impressed. Huge flavors of pepper, leather and a streak of minerality a mile long piled into my mouth. As I thought about what I was tasting, other flavors like mocha, bittersweet chocolate, and this rich, dense black fruit note put a smile on my face. The tannins here are very nicely integrated and silky smooth. To me, the Santa Carolina carmenere is ready to drink now but will also hold up for a few more years.

All told, a wonderful wine for $10 and something I'd gladly buy to have with grilled, charred meat. It is barbecue season after all! After poking around google, it's clear that the Santa Carolina Carmenere is available all over the country at places like Costco and your local grocery store. For further assistance finding the wine, Carolina Wine Brands USA is the place to check. My rating? Easily a B and a BUY recommendation. This is tasty wine and seems to be a wonderful expression of carmenere. I can't wait to try the rest of the Santa Carolina wines.

This was received as a media sample from Brand Action Team.

Beau Carufel


  1. Sounds like a tasty inexpensive wine and one I need to try. Thanks for sharing.

  2. No problem Dan, thanks for reading. I'm very happy with this one so far, it's accessible and easy to find. Great combination.