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Home Winners > Winners 2012 > NEW WORLD: Carmenère

Winner Details

New World: Carmenère

With a good number of medals and a lot of positive feedback, particularly under the £10 mark, on this evidence Carmenère is a must-stock for any wine list

This was Carmenère’s third outing as a stand-alone category. Two years ago, it picked up a paltry couple of Silvers. Last year saw one Gold, five Silvers and a couple of Bronzes. But 2012 seems to have been the year when the category really showed what it’s capable of.

Right from the start the tasters were happy with what they were seeing, with the only reservations regarding somewhat optimistic pricing at the upper end.

‘They were consistently good,’ said Xavier Rousset MS of Texture and 28º-50º. ‘To me, Carmenère is a less-expensive grape and if you enter the category at £15 you shouldn’t be playing there because it doesn’t bring that sort of pleasure.’

This seems to have been a common point of view, because only one wine over £10 picked up a medal. A special mention should be made of Carmen’s Gran Reserva Carmenère. The same wine picked up a Silver last year, and an extra year in bottle seems to have helped its chunky, smoky flavours to soften into something of real class for the price.

Rapel likes to style itself as the heartland of Carmenère – and can certainly specialise in the larger, riper versions. But, in fact, the medal winners here came from all over Chile, from Limarí down to Maule, with Maipo (normally associated with classy Cabernet) doing surprisingly well.

If there is a concern here it’s that some good results will cause the winemakers to get ahead of themselves and think that more fruit, more extraction and more wood will automatically equal ‘better wine’ and, therefore, also ‘higher price tag’. But for the tasters, this is very definitely a grape variety where any hint of overworking killed a wine’s chances stone dead.

Better by far to look for freshness, aromatics and even simplicity at a lower price. Our tasters were united in feeling that they could definitely find a place for wines like that on their list.

‘For me Carmenère delivers something you expect – one type of pleasure,’ said The French Table’s Stéphanie Dhont. ‘It has a price range, though – if you get more expensive you expect more complexity and above £10 I think it’s too much.’

This year, we ended up not just with two different price points for the Gold List, but also two different styles of wine: the Chono had lightish fruit with a twist of coffee; the Carmen was softer with nice concentration and what Athila Roos of The Arts Club described as ‘a Minervois like inkiness with a touch of pepper and spice’.

Wines that failed were either too overworked and too expensive, or just fell on the wrong side of the herbal spectrum, landing on ‘stalky’ rather than ‘spicy’. But still, a lot of medals, good prices and happy tasters. Carmenère was one of the successes of 2012.

‘Carmenère has a lot of potential as an aromatic. They should concentrate on that side of it.’  Andrea Bricarello, Galvin Retaurants