2021 Santa Rita “Floresta” Carmenérè, Colchagua Valley, Apalta D.O., Chile (Alcohol 13.5%, Residual Sugar 2 g/l) LCBO Vintages $27.95 (750ml bottle)
When it comes to the Carmenérè grape, it takes a fair bit to charm me, as over the decades, I’ve tasted so many one-dimensional examples of this variety that my palate tends to tire quickly. Saying all that, this one is something else entirely.
This Floresta range promises to “offer a different look at the classic varieties of Chile”, presenting a range of wines with “minimal oenological intervention” (read: as little winemaking jiggery-pokery as they can possibly get away with). Whether you view this as a noble aim or a marketing department’s wanton imagineering wet dream, the end result is some simply terrific wine. I’m now so curious to try the other wines in the Floresta range now, as this particular one fascinated me, and then some. This vintage of Floresta Carmenérè is limited to a mere 6,667 bottles, so in the grand scheme of things, it’s a pretty tiny production for such a large winery operation.
Made with grapes from an older dry-farmed block on permeable granitic soils in the very centre of the Apalta region, this medium-full-bodied wine has a striking vitality that I so rarely find in Carmenérè wines. It’s a vitality that I found so pronounced that I had to check the bottle to see if I was actually drinking a Carmenérè. With this in mind, it’s certainly one of the best bottlings of Carmenérè I have tasted, and I encourage you to give it a go even if your past experiences with this grape have been everything but stellar.
The vibrant nose is unashamedly fruit-forward, with a whole load of blueberries and black raspberries, backed up by some wonderfully subtle oak notes, peppery spice, graphite, and an extremely pretty violet florality. Although this fruit is ripe, the palate has some serious lift, with soft and silky tannins integrating with a delicious black raspberry acidity. There’s a defined granite mineral aspect to this wine too, particularly on the long graphite-like finish. Elegant and perfectly poised, this is quite unlike any Carmenérè I have tasted previously.
As it’s so damn well balanced (with innate delicacies and sublime intricacies), this wine is going to show all sorts of versatility at the dinner table; the possibilities are, within the more obvious constraints, almost endless.
What a wonderful wine.
(Four and a half out of a possible five apples)