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The Los Vascos Cromas Carménère Gran Reserva 2019 is sourced from Domaines Baron de Rothschild (Lafite) vineyards located in the foothills of the Coastal Mountains in the Colchagua Valley of Chile, twenty-five miles from the Pacific Ocean. The Rothschild (Lafite) vineyards and winery were founded in Chile in 1988.
Carménère was once one of the main grapes in the classic Bordeaux blend Red wines. In the middle 1800s, vine diseases and pests plagued French vineyards. Entire vintages were lost. Carménère was on the grapes with the most difficulties, to the point that vineyards pulled up the vines and planted other grapes.
When the problems eventually passed, they found that Carménère was virtually extinct in Bordeaux, the main growing region. So, the Bordeaux blend continued with Carménère. At some point in the 1800s, someone from Chile bought grapevines from Bordeaux.
I have heard they pirated the vines or were sold the vines by less than scrupulous sellers. But those vines grew in Chile for the next one hundred years plus. The problem was that the grapevines were misidentified as Merlot. Carménère and Merlot have different growing seasons. The vineyards of Chile were harvesting the grapes on the Merlot schedule, and the resulting wine was not so great Merlot.
Chile wanted to expand its wine sales to the international market, so they brought in experts to figure out what was wrong with its Merlot. What was wrong with the Merlot is that it was actually Carménère. Not only was it Carménère, but it was also the extinct Bordeaux varietal.
It is fitting that a premier Bordeaux producer now offers the Los Vascos Cromas Carménère Gran Reserva 2019; the wine has come full circle. The name Cromas refers to how nature “colors” the wine. The soil, the climate, and location all put their stamp on this Carménère.
What was once bad Merlot makes excellent Carménère. The grapes were hand-picked at just the right time and then fermented in stainless steel vats. After fermentation, 50% of the Los Vascos Cromas Carménère Gran Reserva 2019 was left to age in stainless steel vats for a year. The other 50% was transferred to French oak barrels, 20% new barrels for 12 months. If I remember my presentation with the winery’s head, the barrels came from the Rothschild (Lafite) cooperage in Bordeaux. Those barrels are typically reserved for Bordeaux wines.
The once lost classic grape of Bordeaux lives and thrives in Chile. The alcohol content is a ripe 14.5%.
Los Vascos Cromas Carménère Gran Reserva 2019 Tasting Notes
The color is a dark and intense black cherry with black highlights. The nose is ripe red and blackberries, green pepper, spice, black pepper, light herbs, and cold coffee. The Los Vascos Cromas Carménère Gran Reserva 2019 is a firm, full-bodied red wine with an interesting flavor profile.
It tastes of extracted blackberry, licorice, bell pepper, exotic spice, and plum. The mid-palate adds a nice pull from the tannins, dark chocolate, Altoid’s spice (not candy sweet, but sharp), blueberry, and a soft herbal hit.
The Los Vascos Cromas Carménère Gran Reserva 2019 has excellent structure along with rich, interesting flavors. The bell/green peppers add a nice touch.
- If you are interested in experiencing Carménère, the Los Vascos Cromas Carménère Gran Reserva 2019 is a good place to start.
- This wine should find it between $15 and $20, and at that price, you can get a serious wine from a winery, not a brand wine. Nothing wrong with brand wines; I drink a lot of them. It is just that when you are sampling the signature wine of a country, a solid example from an established winery is a safe choice.
- If it weren’t for some pests in 18th century France, Carménère would be a house-hold name regularly found in Napa and Sonoma. Fate brought Carménère to Chile, and that is a good thing for value wine drinkers.