I bought a bottle of wine for an experimental quasi-Provencal braised beef thing we made for dinner today. The braised beef absorbs a good third of the bottle in the braising sauce, making it possible to buy one of these 14% New World reds on a weekday without regretting it the day after.
The wine we bought was Tarapaca Gran Reserva Carmenere 2007, a Chilean Carmenere from the January 10 Vintages release that caught my attention. It had the unusual distinction of being a $15 (exactly $15 — not $14.95…) wine with 4 1/2 stars from Tony Aspler. I can see where he’s coming from — it has an interesting spiciness with plenty of fruit on the nose and good followthrough on the palate. It reminded me a bit of a very different wine that also received very high scores from Aspler and also from Robert Parker — a spicy white blend from Australia that we bought early in our time in Ottawa and ended up regretting. Both wines with a complex, interesting, and reasonably intense nose and palate, obviously impressive to two highly respected critics, but which ended up leaving us cold.
Why? J. finds the oak on a number of modern reds — including this one — rather overwhelming. I sometimes agree with her, though it didn’t strike me as a problem with this particular wine. In the end (and we both agree on this one) it’s more about what these wines are missing — they have lots of ripe fruit, lots of spice, but nothing by way of organicity, minerality, earthiness, etc. — in short, terroir. Unfortunately, spicy ripe fruit all by itself makes me think of that cheap scented candle smell you can’t avoid in Hallmark shops. (A slight green pepper note on the nose doesn’t help any either — I don’t always complain about bell pepper notes but they just seem weird in the context of a ripe, fruit-driven New World merlot/malbec/carmenere.)
On a more positive note, I think I am starting to get a handle on quasi-Provencal braised beef. Hint: orange peel is your friend.