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Home Winners > Winners 2013 > NEW WORLD: Carmenère

Winner Details

New World: Carmenère

Well-priced, accessible and consistently good, Carmenère has matured into one of the strongest categories of the New World

There’s something very Chilean about the way in which Carmenère has quietly established itself in this competition. Year after year it garners more medals than before; year after year the proportion of Golds and Silvers increases. The changes are not huge, but in the four years that the grape has had its own section, it has grown into a genuinely strong category.

Eight medals, two of them Gold and four of them Silver is the performance of a grape that has found its stylistic niche and is able to deliver it reliably and, crucially, at a realistic price. All but two of this year’s medal winners would make it onto a list under £35, and the combination of ripe fruit, soft tannins and smoky/spicy complexity is perfect for the modern customer.

‘With its soft tannins, herbaceousness and touch of spice, Carmenère can be useful,’ said Galvin La Chapelle’s Peter Fazekas. ‘It’s good for simpler dishes, though at the moment I think it would only sell at the lower price on the list.’

If that ‘fruity, ripe, not too demanding and generally cheap’ description sounds like a blueprint for how sommeliers still tend to see Chile as a whole, then maybe it is. Of course, the producers would like to be operating at the upper end – and wines like the Millaman and the Pérez Cruz show that the potential is there to impress with this grape.

Generally, our teams liked the fact that there was ‘a lot of well-made wine to choose from’, but there was a warning, too, from York & Albany’s Nigel Lister, about winemakers getting the wines so ripe that they lost all their trademark spiciness/leafiness.

‘There are certain characteristics you look for (as will the drinker) and this was lacking in some of the wines here,’ he said.

The two Gold-listed wines made a good pair. Concha picked up a third extremely well-priced Gold from its Explorer range (Pinot Noir and Late Harvest Sauvignon Blanc were the others), while the Chocalan – a richer, riper wine – would be a still-affordable trade-up.

‘Carmenère, like Malbec, definitely has a place on the list. Some customers are becoming aware of this variety, and a few may actually seek it out.’
Peter Fazekas, Galvin La Chapelle