Carménère, with the meaty plumpness of Merlot and the slightly herbal quality of Cabernet Sauvignon, is a fine red wine under the best conditions, which Chile provides in spades. Carménère enjoys the isolation of Chile’s terroir, with the Andes mountains, Pacific Ocean, and north-south deserts guarding it from vineyard pests. Late ripening, the vineyards bask in intense sunshine, and at higher elevations, fanned by coastal breezes and watered by Andes’ snowmelt, the grapes thrive in the sandy limestone soils. Anderra’s Carménère reflects this strong sense of place, stylishly crafted by French winemaker, Emmanuel Riffaud, under the umbrella of Baron Philippe de Rothschild.
Carménère was originally planted in Bordeaux, used in red wine blends. Believed to be extinct after the great phylloxera plague of the late 1800‘s, French winegrowers showed little interest in resurrecting the grape, since it was difficult to grow. Luckily, Chilean winemakers had brought cuttings from Bordeaux to Chile prior to phylloxera, but its identity was lost in time. For more than 150 years, Carménère was confused with Merlot in Chile, but thanks to recent DNA testing, the grape was rediscovered. It had found refuge in the terroir of South America, and in the cradle of Chile, which has the largest number of Carménère vineyards in the world, it thrives. So successful that, like Malbec, Carménère is rarely planted in France anymore. Very distinctive, this is a crimson colored, medium bodied wine, with red fruit aromas and flavors, accented by smoky, spicy, and earthy notes, often with hints of dark chocolate, tobacco, and leather. Meant to be drunk young, Carménère demands skillful winemaking, resulting in a chocolate covered cherry flavor profile, otherwise it can be vegetal and astringent.
Baron Philippe de Rothschild’s Anderra Carménère comes from Chile’s Valle Central. Anderra, a combination of “ANDes” and “tiERRA”, is a nod to the marriage of the Andes mountains’ climactic influence and the unique soils of Chile. The Anderra label produces three single varietal wines: Sauvignon Blanc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Carménère. The 2013 Anderra Carménère is juicy, bright and intense, redolent of blackberry, black cherry and plum fruit, spice, roasted coffee, cocoa, and toast. Anderra’s wine style is more fresh and fruit-driven, more black than red fruit, a riper version framed by 50% oak ageing. A generous wine, it is well balanced, with medium-full body and gentle tannins. At 13% ABV, it is a delightful food pairing wine, that compliments grilled, roasted, or pan-fried red meats, the classic Chilean corn and meat pie Pastel de Choclo, cheese, and chocolate desserts.
The 2013 vintage was unique, in that the vineyards received even rainfall over the year, avoiding vine stress, which allowed the fruit to ripen well. This is particularly important for Carménère, as it needs the Goldilocks treatment, not too hot, not too cool, not too much water, but just enough, and not too many grapes on the vine, requiring vineyard management to bring out its best.
Anderra Carménère is well-rounded and expressive, a good value wine, and best of all, at $11, it can be your house wine, perfect for hearty food and cool weather sipping. Yet, with it’s balance and lower alcohol, it can be drunk anytime, especially with summer grilling. Say Hola! to Anderra Carménère!