Frequently confused in Chile with Merlot due to its strikingly similar appearance on the vine, Carmenere is actually a classic wine of Bordeaux — where it was once the sixth grape used for this most classic of wines. (Carmenere is still permitted in blends there, but no one, to my knowledge, actually uses it.)
Today you’ll find Carmenere in Italy and, more likely, Chile, where it’s been grown for 150 years. One of those growers is Vina Casa Silva, a newish (1997) label from an oldish (1912) winemaking family in Chile’s Colchagua Valley. We tasted three of Casa Silva’s Carmenere wines. All wines are 100% Carmenere. Thoughts follow.
2010 Casa Silva Carmenere Reserva – Amazingly drinkable, a sort of cross between Merlot and Syrah, with a light cherry nose, touched with leather, and a muted — not too fruity — body that speaks again of leather, tobacco leaf, and black pepper. Surprisingly great balance here, it pairs well with all kinds of food (kind of like, well, Merlot). Ridiculous value. A- / $12
2009 Casa Silva Carmenere Los Lingues Gran Reserva – From a single estate, this Carmenere offers more fruit and more earth, creating a burly yet also jammy wine that comes across as a bit unbalanced. B / $21
2005 Casa Silva Carmenere Microterroir - From a small plot within Los Lingues comes this wine, one of 6000 bottles produced. Much similarity with the above bottling, an even more intense wine with added tobacco and coffee character in it and a long, juicy finish. Still, the cheap one resonates with me the most. B+ / $48