Truth be told we were a bit bummed out. I mean, it was a beautiful fall day, the air was fresh and we had dutifully signed our “Acknowledgement of Personal Responsibility Release” (aka the “Death Waiver” – a sort of, “if you kill yourself doing this it’s not our fault” document). But just after noon we got the call. Due to high winds we wouldn’t be sailing across the sky in a hot air balloon like the one on the labels of the new Carmen wines from Chile. However it wasn’t a total loss in that we were able to join Carmen’s talented young winemaker Sebastian Labbe for dinner to chat about the new look and to taste and talk about the range of Carmen wines.
“The idea behind the label redesign was to present a cleaner, less ‘old school’ look,” he confirmed. “The balloon depicted on all of our wines reflects our way of looking at things from a higher perspective; floating at our own pace but at the same time deeply analyzing what we see from this vantage point. We want to encourage consumers to discover both Chile and our wines; a discovery that can be a never-ending journey.”
Indeed, the Carmen range of wines follows its own course, starting with the basic Carmen wines then moving in an ever-tightening circle as you move through the Reserva and Gran Reserva lines. As the spiral narrows, the wines show more and more of the character of the region and vineyards they were souced from.
“We are lucky to be located in some of the best established wine regions in the country,” Labbe reveals. These include Limarí, Casablanca, Leyda, Alto Maipo and Apalta as well as newer regions such as Pumanque and Marchigue. Each region is best suited to specific grape varieties. Over the years, the Carmen team has been able to fine tune wines that deliver the best expression of grape variety, climate and soil type.
“The basic Carmen wines mark the state of the journey,” Labbe explains. “As you move to the Reserva range you see more of a sense of place and the wines show varietal typicity, freshness and depth. At the Gran Reserva level you reach the pinnacle; fruit from our greatest vineyards that reveal a true sense of place along with concentration, depth and vibrancy.”
The progression became evident as we tasted our way though the range of Carmen Chardonnay, Reserva Chardonnay and Gran Reserva Chardonnay, all of the 2009 vintage. The crisp apple and pear notes of the Carmen Chardonnay took on nuances of lemon and mild spice with a richer mouthfeel as we moved to the Reserva Chardonnay. The Gran Reserva notched up the complexity with nutty, mildly smoky/mineral nuances and a full, dense structure. The same held true with the flight of 2008 Cabernet Sauvignon where the aroma and flavour profile ranged from mild cassis to mint, tobacco, slate, cedar and leather notes. We also sampled the 2008 Reserva Carmeniere that brimmed with black cherry, damp earth and a hint of pepper. “A fussy grape that likes deep soil where it can pick up a lot of mineral notes,” says Labbe of Carmeniere. A grape that nonetheless plays an important role in Carmen’s portfolio, it was also one that was considered “lost” until it was “rediscovered” amongst Carmen’s Merlot vines in 1994.
Carmen wines are listed across Canada. Visit www.chartonhobbs.com for availability and pricing. More information on Carmen can be found at www.carmen.com