The Accidental Wine

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Carmenère at the Table

Today’s Chilean Carmenère is infinitely better than the early wines made by the likes of Retamal and Espinoza. It’s also one of Chile’s most food-friendly red wines.

During my recent visit, I met with Andrés Caballero of Santa Carolina, whose Reserva de Familia and Herencia Carmenères regularly rate 90 points and above. We tasted these wines and a number of single-vineyard Carmenères from various spots throughout Chile.

Then we tried the wines with a table full of Indian foods—samosas, curried chicken, tamarind sauce, etc. The combinations were superb, the inherent spice and sauciness in the wines playing perfectly off mild spice flavors.

“Cabernet Sauvignon has high acidity and hard tannins; it needs meat,” says Caballero.

“But with Middle Eastern and Indian food, even some Asian foods like ramen or beef in black pepper sauce, Carmenère is a great pairing,” says Caballero. “The tannins and acidity don’t clash with the spices. It’s one of the best food-and-wine pairings we have.”

After a week of trying more than 50 Chilean Carmenères, on top of years spent evaluating Chilean Carmenère, I concur. Carmenère definitely isn’t for everyone, but its good qualities—richness, spicy notes, smooth tannins and compatibility with food—make it well worth a try.

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