Please The Palate Wine of the Week: Montes Alpha 2018 Carmenère, D.O. Valle De Colchagua, Chile

For many years, the Carmenère grape was thought to be Merlot. But in 1994 in Chile, ampellographer Jean Michel Boursiquot noticed the shape of the leaves and curl of the vines was different than the Merlot vines and Carmenère was rediscovered. In 1998, Chile officially recognized Carmenère as a distinct variety. And now, every November 24th Carmenère is honored during International Carmenère Day. To celebrate the holiday, and the grape, I was drinking the Montes Alpha 2018 Carmenère, D.O. Valle De Colchagua, Chile, the Please The Palate wine of the week.

Carmenère was one of the original six red varieties of Bordeaux, along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot. Carmenère was used in Bordeaux blends until phylloxera wiped out the vineyards in Bordeaux in the 1860s. When the vineyards were replanted, Carmenère was not included and therefore it disappeared and was figured to no longer exist. However, original Carmenère plantings had been brought to Chile in the 1850s, before phylloxera, and interplanted with other Bordeaux grape varieties. Soon it was being called Merlot, although it did not taste the same as other Merlots. Then, in 1994, ampellographer Jean Michel Boursiquot noted the difference in the vines and after DNA tests, Carmenère was rediscovered. It took Chileans a few more years before they were willing to accept that what they had thought was Merlot was actually something else. But today, Chile is known for its Carmenère.

Montes Alpha was founded in 1987 and is the pioneer winery in the production of quality wines in Chile. With vineyards throughout Chile, it is in the Colchagua Valley where the Carmenère is found. The Colchagua Valley is in the central zone of Chile, less than two hours from the capital, Santiago. The Montes Alpha Carmenère grapes are sourced from two areas in the Colchagua Valley – Apalta and Marchigüe.

The Montes Alpha 2018 Carmenère is 90% Carmenère and 10% Cabernet Sauvignon. 55% of the wine was aged for 12 months in first, second, and third-use French oak barrels. It has aromas of ripe red and black fruit and roasted jalapeno. On the palate, the wine is medium-bodied with soft tannins that linger in the front of the palate, while the acidity makes your mouth water.

This enjoyable wine retails for $17.