Last week the diplomatic community came out in their numbers to bid farewell to the hardworking, fun-loving and very personable Alfredo Garcia, the outgoing Chilean ambassador to Jamaica. There could not be a more fitting farewell event than a Carménère wine party, as His Excellency is always busy promoting Chile and its products.
Carménère is the name of Chile's signature grape varietal, and is a member of the Cabernet family of grapes. The name "Carménère" originates from the French word for crimson (carmin), which refers to the colour of the autumn foliage prior to leaf fall. This grape was originally planted in the Médoc region of Bordeaux, France, where it was used to produce deep red wines and occasionally used for blending purposes. For over 150 years, the Chilean wine growers mistakenly identified and treated this grape as Merlot; it was only 18 years ago that a visiting French scientist identified the grape and Chile has not looked back since.
Carménère wines in Jamaica
We have come a long way in terms of wines over the last five years, since Ambassador Garcia arrived in Jamaica. Chile is one of the leading producers of wines in the world and their price, for what they deliver, is remarkable. Just about all the major wine producers in Chile are now available here, including wines from Viña Concha y Toro, Viña San Pedro, Undurraga, Viña Santa Rita, Carmen, Viña Montes, Viña Errázuriz, Santa Carolina, Baron Philippe de Rothschild, Viña Ventisquero, and most of them have wines made with all the major varietals, including the Carménère grape in their portfolio.
I discovered two new Carménère wines at this event, one by Baron Philippe de Rothschild, which was a delicious Carménère Reserva poured by Wray and Nephew, and another made by Concha y Toro. Concha y Toro is the largest wine producer in Chile and they have brands at all price ranges and quality ladder. CPJ chose to pour a 2010 Carménère from Concha y Toro's Marques de Casa Concha range.
Carménère taste profile
Rich in berry fruits and spice (think blackberries and black pepper), with smooth, well-rounded tannins, it is a very pleasing and easy-to-drink varietal. Enjoy it with red meats and corn-based dishes, such as Chile's favourite pastel de choclo (corn and meat pie), or take advantage of its natural fruity spiciness and serve it with Indian curry or your favourite Jamaican brown stew chicken dish.
"It is well to remember that there are five reasons for drinking: the arrival of a friend, one's present or future thirst, the excellence of the wine, or any other reason."
True goodbyes are the ones never said or explained. As we say in Jamaica, "Walk Good, Alfredo and Luz." Until we next share a bottle of Carménère.