Red Blend •Casablanca Vineyard
Chile: Colchagua Valley
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Mission Codename: Latitude 34
Operative: Agent Sparkle
Objective: With Agent Sparkle in Chile on a Top Secret project to save the indigenous Mapuche people, divert her to investigate Veramonte winery. If the wines there are superb, secure an allocation for our Operatives
Mission Status: Accomplished!
Current Winery: Veramonte
Wine Subject: 2006 Veramonte Primus Red Wine
Winemaker: Cristian Aliaga and Alvaro Espinoza
Backgrounder: Wine Spies Operatives love great red blends, and while our focus has been primarily on great blends from California, reports have been flooding in from around the world. Today’s wine is a special blend from Chile, born of an unusual vineyard whose soils are sandy loam, rather than the usual alluvial as with most other Chilean vineyard soils. Todays blend of Cabernet Sauvignon (36%), Syrah (31%), Merlot (17%) and Carmenere (16%) is a unique wine with an evolving feel and great big flavors and aromatics. Read Agent Sparkle’s mission report and tasting notes below
Wine Spies Tasting Profile:
Look – Beautiful deep ruby red, with deeply concentrated color through its dark heart and all the way to the edges of the wine. When swirled, this wine presents a super-tight and springy surface that settles quickly – leaving behind tight clusters of chubby legs that move very slowly down the glass
Smell – On opening the bottle, I was practically bowled over by the rush of deep, dark, dusky aromas! I have to admit, that I was not expecting such a bold rush of aromas. A striking earthy dark cherry led the charge, followed by bramble, blackberry, smoky dried meats, soft oak and a hint of mint
Feel – Smooth and ultra-light at very first, then smooth but powerful tannins grip in at the top of the palate. A lovely evolution that takes place somewhat quickly in the mouth, and culminating in a big mouth-coating tangle of flavors
Taste – Delicious and slightly exotic (in the best way possible), with layers of beguiling flavors, led off by ripe plum, blackberry, dark cherry, soft tar, toast and licorice
Finish – Light at first, then ratchet up way up, revealing new layers of fruit and dark earthiness – and then tail off slowly, leaving behind a mouth-watering dryness
Conclusion – A super impressive wine from a world class winemaking team in Chile! This wine had me scratching my head on first opening, with its over-the-top aromatics and bold flavors – but, after about 20 minutes under decant, the wine changed significantly, delivering a still-powerful experience, but a way more balanced, elegant and refined one as well. With plenty of big flavors and deep aromatics, this wine is a sensory delight. The feel starts light but then goes medium-bodied as the tannins take hold. I love this surprising wine, and it went beautifully with the vegetarian Carbonada soup that my first glass was served with. The dish is usually made with meat and you’ll find the recipe below. Vegetarians should simply leave out the meat. With food or not, this fantastic wine delivers a great wine drinking experience!
Vegetable and Meat Soup (Carbonada)
(½ lb.) stewing meat, in cubes
3 teaspoons oil
2 cups potatoes, peeled and diced
1 cup pumpkin, diced
½ cup carrots diced
½ cup green beans, diced
½ cup fresh peas
½ cup fresh or canned fava beans, peeled
½ cup corn kernels
Salt and pepper
1 tablespoon rice
1 egg yolk
In large saucepan boil 2 quarts of water; add meat and cook over low heat 1 hour. Drain and reserve broth and meat.
In saucepan heat oil and sauté the cooked meat; set aside. In the same pot sauté potatoes, pumpkin, carrots, green beans, peas, fava beans and corn for 2-3 minutes; season with salt and pepper. Add reserved broth, meat and rice. Cook over low heat until the rice is cooked, 30 minutes.
In a soup tureen beat egg yolk; pour the hot soup and mix well. Serve hot with lemon juice.
From time to time, I am able to cut away from ‘the spy life’ and go on more personal missions. One such mission was my recent foray to Chile, to learn about the plight of the indigenous people of Chile, the Mapuche.
I had been invited by Judge Juan Guzman, the primary advocate for the Mapuche, to accompany him on a tour with an international group of students that were there to learn about the Mapuche as well.
Juan Guzman is credited with being the man who successfully indicted Chilean dictator, Augusto Pinochet. A wonderful and gregarious man, Judge Guzman frequently called upon me to act as his interpreter. This, despite the fact that his English was nearly flawless. Agent Red later surmised that the Judge had a small crush on me. While probably not true, it can’t hurt to make Red a little jealous from time to time.
Toward the end of my tour, I received an alert on my W.I.N.E. (Wine Internet Nexus Engine) wrist computer. Disguised as a watch this device was supposed to remain on quiet standby for the duration of my trip, Wine Spies HQ assuring me that I would be undisturbed. I should have known better.
Covertly slipping my tiny earpiece onto my ear, I pressed the correct button-sequence on the device. Here is what I heard: “Agent Sparkle. Agent White here. You are being tasked with a covert meeting with Chilean winery, Veramonte, to take place at 0900 Hours in the Colchagua Valley, 100km to the north of your position. Transpot has been arranged. The rally point has been transmitted to your device. Be ready for extraction at 0700. White Out.
Veramonte, eh? I knew from my documentary film work at Napa Valley’s Quintessa Winery earlier this month, that Veramonte was under the same ownership. The Huneeus family, well respected as International wine-folk of incredible talent and respectful stewardship of the vineyards that they own and care for. While I was a little miffed at the interruption to my trip, this was a remarkable opportunity.
I arrived at Veramonte’s vineyard in the Colchagua Valley. I was struck by the beauty of the place but was snapped out of my reverie by my guide, a member of the winemaking team.
The vineyards here comprise 500 acres, 450 of which are planted to numerous varietals, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, Merlot and Carmenere (all of which are in today’s wine) as well as some Petit Verdot and Cabernet Franc. The soils here are more varied in this single vineyard that is most other vineyards throughout Chile. Present in this soil are volcanic components, clay and even some granite. Chilean soils are typically more alluvial (comprised soil, clay, silt or gravel deposited by flowing water).
Winemaker Cristian Aliaga’s approach to winemaking is refreshing. His focus on crafting wines that deliver a pure reflection of place, where nature is allowed to take its course, results in wines that are distinctive and unique. I have tasted many Chilean wines, and must admit that Veramonte’s Primus is now one of my very favorites.
Cristian and his winemaking team make wines “for people to enjoy!” This approach, as contrasted against some wineries motivation to craft wines for reviewers or for best commercial success, is heartening. The focus at Veramonte is to learn from previous vintages and to improve and evolve the wine on each successive vintage.
Primus is a beautiful blend with what could be a new grape to some wine drinkers. The Carmenere in the wine contributes unique flavors and feel. A cool-climate grape that is notoriously difficult to grow, Carmenere is the oldest of the Bordeaux varietals. While this grape can sometime contribute an overly herbaceous or vegital flavor, it is held in check in the Primus.
Farmed organically, the vineyards here, the grapes, seem well-loved. This really shines through in the wine. Don’t just take my word for it though, please be sure to try this wonderful wine for yourself.
Wine Spies Vineyard Check:
The location of the beautiful Colchagua Vineyard can be seen in this satellite photo.
What the Winery Says
About This Wine:
Deep, dark opaque garnet. Aromas of exotic spice, toast and hints of tobacco and mint.Massive and mouthfilling with exotic spice and ripe fruit. Lush, with blackberry and cherry notes and smooth, powerful tannins.
Primus is one of Chile’s top red meritage style wines, a blend of power and finesse that merges Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Carmenère, the lost Bordeaux grape.
Carmenère, a grape that was part of the best wines of Bordeaux until the 1800s, was transported to Chile where it thrives, contributing exotic spice and a rich, sensuous texture to blends.
Proprietor Agustin Huneeus is known for creating some of the world’s best Bordeaux-styel blends including Quintessa and Franciscan Magnificat. Primus employs winemaking techniques identical to Napa Valley’s top Cabernet and blends: Yields are managed to 3-4 tons per acre, all of the grapes go through a meticulous double sorting process, and the wine is aged in 25% new French and American oak for 12-18 months. But, Chile’s economic advantage delivers world-class quality at less than half the price of similar blends from the new world. Its unique profile of rich, dense fruit, exotic spice and a long textured finish delivers big wine quality and satisfaction.
About The Winery:
At Veramonte each of our wines has its own singular way of expressing the ground and environment from which it was born. Being a vineyard-based winery is the essence of our philosophy.
We believe a great wine is a reflection of the care and uniqueness of its terroir – the combined environment of soil, topography, climate and people. We are committed to nurturing this tie of wine to its soil, to its “somewhereness”, so that each of our wines reflect the full expression of our vineyards.
Our philosophy at Veramonte is founded in our conviction that the terroir of the variety is of the utmost importance in determining the wine’s character, quality and value.
Appellation: Casablanca Valley, Chile
Varietal Comp.: 16% Carmenère, 31% Syrah, 17% Merlot and 36% Cabernet Sauvignon
Oak Aging: 14 months in French (85%) and American (15%) oak, 25% new
Total Acidity: 4.10 g/l