Chono Carménère

Gretchen Neuman
VinoVerve Editor

I might be temporarily abstaining from wine on school nights (due to lent) but that doesn’t mean that I can’t continue to talk about the wines that I have already tasted.    This wine, like the Passion Has Red Lips, also falls into the Tip O’Neil Corollary territory and I was lucky enough to get to taste it when the rep came into the store.

The Chono wines are  associated with a wine I discussed a while ago… say, in the Fall of 2008, the Palin Syrah, which are both distributed by GeoWines.  I always like Chilean Carménère because it reminds me of my wine history. Carménère is the lost grape of Bordeaux where it was used to enhance the flavors of the other noble grapes of the region, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec, Petite Verdot and Merlot.  After Phylloxera destroyed most of the vineyards in the region, it was believed that Carménère was all but wiped out.  In 1994, an oenologist discovered that a variety of Merlot in Chile that tended to ripen faster was in fact the long, lost grape.  They were interplanted with Merlot which they resemble and accounted for a  large percentage of the grapes produced.  It turns out that Chilean winemaking owed more to France than Spain as one might have expected.

I have also learned that there were so many Carménère grapes produced that they were often used in the production of Pisco and Aguardiente.

The Carménère is produced in the Maipo River Valley of Chile which is in the heart of the most productive vineyards in the country and relatively close to Santiago. The grapes are picked in the second week of May are macerated in stainless steel and then partially aged in oak.  My first sip gave me a smokey taste of dark fruit. The second sip after a few minutes allowed the wine to open up and become smoother and fuller with more of an emphasis on black cherries and less on the smoke.  Clearly, a wine to let breathe a moment or two.

Syrah, not Sarah

Now that the election is over, perhaps the folks that produce Palin Syrah can get off the roller coaster and just go back to making organic wine.

Due to an unfortunate similarity in spelling to a certain Alaskan Governor the wine becames persona non grata in more liberal corners and flew off the shelves in conservative environs.

Now that the election is over?

Well, maybe we can remember that the winemakers also produce organic Carménères and Cabernet Sauvignons in Chile.

As to the name? Well firstly, it is pronounced more like Pay-leen… Next, it is named after a ball used a traditional Chilean game that is similar to field hockey.

Hopefully now that the election is over, the wine can be judged on its own merits and not be the taste left in our mouths by the candidate.

The Making of Golden Goodness

After being chased around the kitchen and whacked with the mixing spoon, I finally managed to get Kevin to think about moving on this wine making project.

The first thing to remember that cleanliness is the best way to avoid nasty contamination and death… or godliness if you will… so we used the sterilizing agent that came in my kit….

Next in went 1/2 gallon of hot water into the “Primary fermenter” or as Kevin and I finally determined it to be the bucket with the tap… into the hot water when a packet of bentonite. Now, my familiarity with bentonite is from my distant past as an environmental consultant.. (I am like an onion… the more you peel me, the more layers you find..) Anyway, my experience with bentonite is that is used to back fill wells used to sample runoff from hazmat sites. Imagine my surprise that it had an application in wine making? My theory at the moment is that it is used as an early filtration agent? Maybe as something that dead yeast can hook on to… If any one knows and would like to tell me that would be great.. because obviously I am such a dork I will continue to ponder this mystery.

After the bentonite was added and mixed into the water… (word to the wise, don’t pour the powder in and THEN start mixing, bentonite is a form of clay and will seize when it hits water… TRUST ME)

Ok.. after I broke up the glob of clay, Kevin poured our Chilean Chardonnay juice into the fermenter. Naturally the cover would not come off the container… so we improvised. I stabbed the bladder pack with a knife and the juice poured forth. With a beautiful shower of golden goodness…..


More to come….