Disarmed By Carm (A Chilean Carménère Masterclass)

I know we look serious, but much fun was actually had by all

Earlier this week, I took part in an online masterclass/virtual-round-table of sorts with Wines of Chile and Snooth, tasting through a selection of Chilean Carménère reds (some of which you can purchase via a pretty good deal right now), with a group of capable and affable fellow wine-media-types (including @WineDineWanda, @enobytes, @talkavino, and @KellyMitchell).

If you’re kind of scratching your head on the uncharacteristically quick turnaround time in recapitulating the experience here on 1WD, it’s because the whole online-video-Carménère thing is nostalgic for me, as it was one of the first such tastings that I ever did under the 1WD umbrella (back when the writing here could charitably be described as fledgling…).

While almost unlikely to become a crowd favorite based on availability alone, Carignan is probably the empirically best Chilean red fine wine grape, or at least the one with the most depth, intrigue, and soul.

Having said that, the much more ubiquitous Carménère from Chile is still an incredible bargain, and arguably has never been better (or easier to enjoy even at modest price points). In Carménère, Chile is leveraging its ever-increasing winemaking knowledge levels to the full, combining modern know-how with more hand-crafted approaches; the results in some cases are single vineyard wines from older vines that provide an intellectually captivating experience at prices that still kind of defy credulity. At least, that’s how I’m increasingly seeing that landscape, particularly based on what we tasted during our video meetup…

Disarmed By Carm (A Chilean Carménère Masterclass)

Disarmed By Carm (A Chilean Carménère Masterclass)2016 Viña Casa Silva Cuvee Colchagua Carménère (Colchagua Valley, $15)

I’ve had a lot of fun visiting this quintessentially Chilean spot before, with my main takeaway having been that they like to present Carménère in its more unadulterated, unapologetic forms. “Don’t like green herb notes? F–k you, drink me. Don’t like reeeeeeally dark fruits? F–k you, drink me.” You get the idea. This wine is a perennially excellent introduction to the main pillars of Chilean Carm: dark fruit flavors, strong minty notes, and plenty of tobacco and spice aromas that are delivered from the grape and not from wood.

Disarmed By Carm (A Chilean Carménère Masterclass)2014 Viña Ventisquero Grey Glacier Single Block Carménère (Maipo Valley, $22)

The Single Block Grey series is another consistent offering, and in this case, comes from relatively atypical sandy-clay soils of the Trinidad Vineyard. The Grey is similar to Casa Silva’s Cuvee, in that you get full-on Carm, but with more oak aging (a third of it in new French barrels). It’s dark, minty, intense, and evolves on the palate with stewed black fruits, pepper notes, and a meaty, chewy texture.

Disarmed By Carm (A Chilean Carménère Masterclass)

Disarmed By Carm (A Chilean Carménère Masterclass)2015 Viña Requingua Toro De Piedra Grand Reserve Carménère (Maule Valley, $15)

This is Carménère in one of its most supple, gulpable forms. The fruit is characteristically dark and smoky, the wood tones are sweet and caramelized (thanks to some time in American oak barrels), and the whole package exudes an easy, sultry sexiness that makes it hard to stop drinking (you’ll probably pay for that later).


Disarmed By Carm (A Chilean Carménère Masterclass)2012 Valdivieso Single Vineyard Carménère (Valle de Peumo, $24)

Interestingly, this is one of those instances where Chile’s long, thin geography is less important than its West/East climatic influences; Peumo, in Cachapoal, is relatively warm and dry, being buffeted from ocean influence by coastal mountains. Now, longtime 1WD readers already know that Valdivieso is full of interesting (and high quality) surprises, and this Carm is no exception to that streak: think earthy, spicy, herbal, and silky, a red that is jsut fine with strutting its stuff.

Disarmed By Carm (A Chilean Carménère Masterclass)

Disarmed By Carm (A Chilean Carménère Masterclass)2015 Siegel Single Vineyard Los Lingues Carménère (Colchagua Valley, $29)

Those who want a more contemplative Carm would do well to give this Los Lingues vineyard red a long look. With only eight months of oak aging, it’s far from being integrated, and it’s going to need some time to ensure that some bottle aging will meld all that woodiness with the dark black cherry fruitiness. BUT… if it does, then you’ll have a textural palate that matches the intriguing nose of this thing. Dark and green herb notes abound, and they are not shy.

Disarmed By Carm (A Chilean Carménère Masterclass)2013 Valdivieso Caballo Loco Grand Cru Apalta (Colchagua Valley, $35)

Another example of the cooling ocean influence being tempered by the coastal range, this Carm and Cabernet Sauvignon blend is complex, supple, and mouth-watering achievement. What’s interesting is how the addition of 45% Cab doesn’t mute the essential Carménère-ness of this wine; the textbook herbal spices and deep, dark cherry fruits are right there, with the Cab supplying tannic scaffolding and additional, tarter fruitiness.

Disarmed By Carm (A Chilean Carménère Masterclass)2015 Viña Carmen Gran Reserva Carménère (Colchagua Valley, $15)

I am still trying to figure out how they managed this. Technically, there’s 7% Carignan and 3% Petite Verdot in this Apalta-area blend, from the “Los Peñascos” Vineyard in the foothills, one of the regions highest elevation zones. It’s all hand-tended, French oak aged for ten months, then given another two months in bottle. I just don’t understand how they can pull this off for under twenty bucks per bottle. This is vibrant, structured, herbal, spicy, fruity, and just impeccably balanced stuff. You won’t notice the 2+ grams of RS, unless you’re really, really looking for them (in which case, please just get a life already).


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Copyright © 2016. Originally at Disarmed By Carm (A Chilean Carménère Masterclass) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!

“Fire The Accountants” (Inama Recent Releases)

What do you do at harvest time if you are part of a family wine business, but are highly allergic to pollen?

If you’re Alessio Inama, son of Azienda Agricola Inama‘s Stefano Inama, you hoof it to the major wine markets, and take media types like me out to dinner so that we can taste your wines. Which is how I got to meet Alessio at Philly’s excellent Fishtown-area haunt Root last week.

Alessio describes his father as “a crazy man,” and certainly he has a rep in the wine world for possessing the quintessentially Italian trait of bucking convention (which is second only to the quintessentially Italian trait of adhering almost blindly to tradition). This is fortunate for anyone who loves eclectic northern Italian white wines, as Inama is now well-known as producing the thinking person’s Soave. Alessio quoted his father as saying “the first step to making a great wine… is to fire the accountant.” It’s hard not to like such a character (unless you’re his accountant). Especially when he also makes Carmenere (more on that in a minute).

Back in the 70s, Soave had its heyday, being one of the most recognizable Italian wine regions, if not its most famous white wine regional brand. As in all such things, insipidness and market hangover ensued, and by the 1990s Soave wasn’t much considered as the world turned to Pinot Grigio and Chardonnay (though Soave remained popular in its home country). It was during the heyday in the`70s that Alessio’s grandfather, Giuseppe, began buying up small, lava basalt hillside lots in the Soave Classico region (today they own about 30 hectares).

Today, Soave is a bit of a bell curve. At one end, you have insipid, forgettable quaffers; in the middle, a large production of capable, often very good, almost always refreshing sippers best enjoyed in the warmest months; on the tail end, a small number of producers who push the region’s Garganega grape to its physiological – and philosophical -limits…

“Fire The Accountants” (Inama Recent Releases)

“Fire The Accountants” (Inama Recent Releases)2014 Inama Vin Soave Classico (Veneto, $15)

The white wine formula at Inama has developed over the years to incorporate controlled ancient techniques: short skin macerations, natural browning of the musts, maturation in used (2-5 year old) barriques for some of the wines, and a few months of lees contact.  In this case, maturation is in stainless steel, and the result is a very serious Soave (textural, ageworthy – I’ve had vintages with 2-3 years on them that were still in excellent shape) that’s letting its hair down (floral, mineral, nutty, and refreshing). This is as straightforward and accessible as Inama gets, and you get a lot of complexity for the cash.

“Fire The Accountants” (Inama Recent Releases)2014 Inama Vigneti di Foscarino Soave Classico (Veneto, $25)

Used barriques do come into play here, aging wine made from pergola-trained Garganega vineyards on the eastern side of Monte Foscarino. This happens to be my personal fave of the Inama lineup; camomile, citrus, almonds… the wine is a delight, with Luke’s-green-lightsaber-quality laser focus on the palate.

“Fire The Accountants” (Inama Recent Releases)

“Fire The Accountants” (Inama Recent Releases)2014 Inama Vigneto du Lot Soave Classico (Veneto, $30)

This is Soave with its balls out. A single vineyard offering that sees fermentation in 30% new French oak. This starts to get into “what am I drinking… is this Burgundy? Fiano?” territory, but every region needs someone to kick it in the ass. The label (which changes color every year) depicts the two facets of wine: drunkenness and contemplation, both of which you are likely to encounter when imbibing this beauty. Floral, toasty, creamy, with a long finish of sweet and bitter almond, vanilla, and citrus and stone fruits.

“Fire The Accountants” (Inama Recent Releases)

“Fire The Accountants” (Inama Recent Releases)2013 Inama Carménère Più Veneto Rosso (Veneto, $19)

To the south-east of Soave Classico sits the Colli Berici, a stark contrast in soils to its white-wine-region cousin; the spot is dominated by red silt/clay on a calcareous ridge. Little wonder that Bordeaux red grapes were planted there, including Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, and Carménère. Interestingly, this is yet another spot in the world where Carménère grew but everyone thought that it was something else (in this case, Cab Franc). As it turns out, Carménère seems to do quite well in Berici, where the vines are now over forty years old. The Più (or plus) in this case is the addition of 30% Merlot, which ads some body, black olive notes, and tart red fruit flavors to the mix. There’s a lot of pleasant structure here, buoyant acidity, and dark berry flavors, too, with almost no hints of bell pepper to be found. All in all, very hard to put down.

“Fire The Accountants” (Inama Recent Releases)

“Fire The Accountants” (Inama Recent Releases)2013 Inama Bradisismo Rosso (Veneto, $30)

The title refers to the seismic activity that generated the region’s hills, and it sounds a whole lot sexier in Italian than it does in English. A 70% Cabernet Sauvignon / 30% Carménère blend, to me this seemed the most modernly themed of Inama’s lineup. You will recognize the Cab in the plummy fruits and dried herb notes of this “Super-Venetian” right away, but the Carm adds complexity by way of dried dark cherries and chocolate. It’s a smooth operator, for sure; recommended for when you are trying to get some of your own seismic moves on…

“Fire The Accountants” (Inama Recent Releases)

“Fire The Accountants” (Inama Recent Releases)2009 Inama ‘Oratorio di San Lorenzo’ Colli Berici Carmenere Riserva (Veneto $70)

Alessio described drinking this wine now as “infanticide,” and I’m inclined to agree with him, based on the intense structure of this 100% Carménère from the Veneto (talk about a hand-sell if there ever was one…). Inama were swinging for the fences on everything here: acidity, alcohol, flavor, tannins, texture, body, and presence. By and large, they did hit a home run here; it’s deep, persistent, powerful, and complex, with soy, cocoa, dark fruits, and pepper. None of it is integrated yet, but in about four years or so all of this should be meshing together rather nicely.


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Copyright © 2016. Originally at “Fire The Accountants” (Inama Recent Releases) from 1WineDude.com - for personal, non-commercial use only. Cheers!