In a happy coincidence, I have in my day job a professional association with James McIlwain, who helms Southern Cross Wine Merchants. This wine is part of its range and I’m grateful to James for providing me with a sample. In the course of chatting with me about this and Chilean wine in general, he sketched the Colchagua valley’s topography on a post-it note, including key geographic features and weather patterns. A miniature masterpiece, to be sure, and more deserving of the paper recycling bin in which it ended up.
This is quite outrageously aromatic; one of those wines that smells great as soon as you pop the cork. There’s a sheen of earthy green capsicum over ripe plum fruit and well-judged vanilla oak. The aroma profile is very distinctive; it’s like a cross between cool climate Cabernet (the green leafiness) and Merlot (the soft fruit character). No wonder Carménère was used in Bordeaux as a blending component prior to the onset of phylloxera.
The palate is medium bodied and not as expansive as the nose suggests. In fact, it shows a really nice balance between generosity of flavour and shapely line, not tipping too far in either direction. Entry is dark and fruit-driven, leading to a relatively complex middle palate, full of soft plums and that distinctive leafiness. The oak is mocha-like and subservient in terms of the overall flavour profile. Although there are abundant, ripe tannins on the after palate and finish, this doesn’t come across as a highly structured wine. It’s certainly firm enough to stand up to robust food, yet soft enough to be pleasing on its own too (as I’m currently enjoying it).
Considering the price, clever winemaking and inherent interest in varietal terms, this wine is something of a bargain and one I’d be happy to slam down at a posh barbeque.