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Carmenere, the indigenous Chilean grape variety, can now claim to have gained promotion to the so-called “Premiership” of first class wine varieties, according to wine critic and broadcaster, Tim Atkin MW.
Speaking at wine producer Santa Rita Estates first South American Wine Workshop at London’s Altitude venue in Millbank Tower earlier today, Atkin said after that a chequered history, advances in the Chilean wine industry, which he likened to Carmenere getting a new manager, had now elevated Caremenere to Premiership status.
But whilst he did not think it risked relegation in the near future, it was still some way off being termed a “Champions League” grape variety.
This lighthearted exchange came during a debate about how far Carmenere has come as a grape variety in the last 10 years. He admitted he had “come round” to the benefits of Carmenere in recent years after a period where he feared it would always be regarded as being as temperamental as Pinotage, South Africa’s most recognised indigenous variety.
South American wine expert and fellow MW, Peter Richards, agreed the advances in Carmenere now meant the wines were largely unrecognisable to the ones being produced only a few years ago. It was now possible, he argued, to start assessing Carmenere not on whether it was a green or not, but on where it was being made and by who.
Atkin said the challenge still facing Chilean winemakers was controlling the tannins and greenness in Carmenere and that when it was bad it was little like a married couple that could not stop arguing. But Richards stressed Carmenere was only just starting out on how well it is being grown, matured and handled.
Both were speaking during a master class assessing the merits of Carmenere along with its Argentinean neighbour Malbec, Mable, hosted by Argentinean viticulturist Eduardo del Pool from Dona Paula and Carmen winemaker, Sebastian Labe, who said the Carmeneres’ being made now were very different to what was being produced 10 years ago.
The workshop also included a keynote speech from Australian winemaker, and Santa Rita wine consultant, Brian Croser, who warned Chilean producers not to ignore the potential and opportunity they have with their traditional Cabernet varieties in the desire to find something new for the international wine market.
Although Chile is blessed with such an incredibly diverse range of wine regions capable of finding the ideal spot to grow almost any variety, it is the Cabernet family of varieties that is the “cornerstone” of its winemaking, stressed Croser.
Other sessions at the workshop included a vertical tasting of 21 vintages of Santa Rita’s Casa Real with winemaker Cecilia Torres and an overview of the South American wine market by Peter Richards.
Story by Richard Siddle
Courtesy of Harpers Wine & Spirit Trades Review