Tuesday, 15 June 2010

World Cup Wines. Day Six. Chile vs Honduras


Chile built its winemaking reputation on two Bordeaux grape varieties: Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot. Super everyday drinking wines. But it turns out that all along Chilean winemakers were also making another wine called Carmenère. They just didn't know it.

Because it was only as recently as 1994 that visiting French botanist Jean-Michel Boursiquot recognised that much of what was hitherto thought to be plantings of Merlot was actually Carmenère. As much as 50% of it.

So what used to be thought of, and labelled as, Chilean Merlot, turned out to be something quite remarkable. Much of the celebrated red wine that was being made in Chile was really crafted from a grape that was previously thought to be virtually extinct. 

Because Carmenère is actually one of the ancient grapes of Bordeaux, assumed to have disappeared during the phylloxera epidemic between 1867 and 1892. 

So only since 1998, on the basis of the evidence provided by Monsieur Boursiquet and other ampelographers, has this crimson (carmin in French) grape, Carmenère, been officially recognised by Chile's wine regulators (see also The Wine Rules: 3: Chile does Bordeaux).

For easy drinking with the football Casillero del Diablo Carmenère from Chile's biggest wine producer, indeed by some margin the largest winemaker in Latin America, Concha y Toro, is ideal. On the nose expect coffee, and cinnamon spice aromas, then raspberry and blackberry fruit on the palate and that lovely distinctive spicy finish. Delightful stuff.

At the other end of the scale, for a Fairtrade alternative, how about Los Robles Fairtrade Carmenère? It offers perfumed aromas, a rich and fullish body, and is plummy with damson fruit and spice and may be easier on your conscience and no harder on your wallet.

Wine is a puzzle in Honduras. Not only is the national drink really beer, with the clear sugar cane liquor Guaro a second choice alternative, but wine is very hard to find. And with very few native wine drinkers in the country it's also not well understood so is often stored in unsuitable conditions, especially in direct heat and sunlight. This can make buying any bottle something of a lottery. 

My wine recommendation for Honduras therefore is either Imperial or Port Royal Gold Reserve. The former is sweetish and malty with some corn flavour. The latter offers a caramel and fruit nose and is buttery on the palate. Both are best served very cold. Okay, I admit it, they're beers.

Honduras beat Chile last year. But there's already been a couple of cupsets. Hmmm.

Chile 3 Honduras 1




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