Carmenere, a bold new grape to discover by John Gerum

Merlot is a red wine that is a safe choice for most people; it’s fruity with low tannins and acid which make it soft, smooth and easy to drink. However many wine drinkers are now venturing out of their safe zone and are exploring new varietals and wine. I am asked quite frequently about the Carmenere (pronounced Carmen-AIR) grape and the type of flavours associated with this wine.

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It is quite an interesting story. Carmenere was originally planted in Medoc, France over two hundred years ago. It was used primarily as a blending grape alongside Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc. In the 1850’s vine disease affected the region and the Carmenere grape never really made a comeback, today very little is grown anywhere in France. However the vine was imported to Chile where most of the Carmenere grape is found today. The vines love the sandy soils and the dry warm summers and Carmenere has found a successful place to grow and make good wines.

Over 5000 hectares is planted in the Maipo and Elqui Valleys in Chile where dry conditions favour the growth of the Carmenere vine. To create a more structured and full bodied wine, Carmenere is sometimes blended with Cabernet Sauvignon in Chile. A small amount of Carmenere is also grown in California and Washington.
elqui valley
Carmenere is, for the most part, a smooth wine due to manageable acid and tannin levels. Its’ profile includes red and dark berry flavours and spice. Many feature an attractive smoky cedar bouquet that is due to aging the wine in toasted oak barrels. The tannins are soft and the colour is rich and deep. Carmenere has a silky texture and is best drunk young, usually within five years of the vintage date. So don’t be intimidated and try it the next time you are selecting a bottle.

A fabulous introduction to the potential of Carmenere is the 2012 Falernia hailing from the Elqui Valley for around $20. A big wine, ideal for fall and winter dinner, this wine features big, ripe, fleshy, warm black cherry and blueberry mingled with forest floor and a delicate touch of smoke. Full bodied and rich wine perfect for roasted meats and rich gravies.

The next time you reach for a Cabernet Sauvignon or a Shiraz stop and try a Carmenere. A whole new world of flavors await you.

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Two whites for the glorious summer of 2015 reviewed by John Gerum

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Two new Okanagan Crush Pad selections are being released this summer. This winery is in the forefront of experimentation with different vineyards, winemakers and fermentation techniques. These wines are always interesting as they never see oak and are generally fermented in concrete giving them a unique profile not found in commercial wines. Only a few hundred cases of each are released, and are available at private wine shops and directly from the winery. If you happen to be in the Summerland region in the Okanagan this summer don’t miss out on visiting this architecturally stunning winery and tasting their full line up.

How do you improve Sauvignon Blanc and create an exciting new style that may be the answer to the question, “Does the Okanagan have a signature style?” You produce the 2014 Haywire Waters & Brooks Sauvignon Blanc. This white adds another dimension to Sauvignon Blanc by adding a creamy, polished body and contrasting it nicely with an attractive racy, tartness. Aromas include stone fruit with a predominate peach essence followed by lime zest, gooseberry and a slight, fresh grassiness. This intense white wine is clean and bright and reveals green apple, lemon and grapefruit on the palate. A one up on Marlborough style Sauvignon Blanc as it adds a unique body and creaminess not found anywhere else. Well done. 89 points. $24.90

I have never been a fan of un-oaked Chardonnay but this is an exception. The 2014 Samantha Canyonview Chardonnay adds flavor and complexity to this grape without the use of oak barrels. Wafting from the glass after a quick swirl is a lovely buttery, yeasty aroma with ripe stone fruit, melon and citrus. A sip uncovers a full, voluptuous, fleshy, creamy palate, complex yet approachable. This is a Chardonnay that you could enjoy before dinner but would be incredibly versatile in matching to a wide range of menu items. 90 points. $22.90