Wines made from the Carmenere grape have always been fun for me. It’s one of the first grapes that I became obsessed with that no one else in my circle of drinking buddies knew anything about. It seems like I never got sick of throwing down ten bucks for a rich, fruity, spicy wine that outshined other bottles at twice the price.
With time and a more developed palate come downsides and my appreciation of most cheap Carmenere has diminished as I generally prefer wines with more acidity. I’m noticing overripe flavors more these days and generally bulk made wines are as exciting as drinking Coors Light or Bud. I know there is outstanding Chilean Carmenere in the $20-$40 price range but hey, there’s a ton of great wine around the world in that price range, so I don’t often taste at that price point.
Luckily a few bottles made their way into my possession that renewed my curiosity in Bordeaux’s forgotten grape. First off I found a bottle of Inama Carmenere Piu 2006 from the Veneto Region of Italy at Vino Aroma in Williamsville NY. Only a few days later my friends from Long Island surprised me with a bottle of Osprey’s Dominion Carmenere 2007, which is, the only New York State grown Carmenere I know of.
I recently opened up both of these bottles back to back and was blown away by the differences among them and overall when compared to Chilean Carmenere.
The Osprey’s Carmenere had a familiar tone that I got with Long Island reds and this winery specifically; that is a tight core of fruit with fresh acidity and a gentle rusticity. The blackberry aromas were pure and spicy with hints of black cherry and tobacco. There was a polished feel to this wine that gave it a universal appeal while making the case that Carmenere can work as well as Cabernet Franc on Long Island, especially in warm years like 2007.
The Inama Carmenere Piu 2006 was a different wine entirely. On the nose it showed much more funk and chocolate notes with its fruit presence of plum and black currant taking a back seat to the barnyard, smoke and tar aromas. The mouth feel was simply stunning with rustic tannins and smooth acidity that filled out the palate while sticking around long enough to leave a delicate chocolate tootsie roll meets black fruit finish.
Fruit loving drinkers will appreciate the Osprey’s for its pure fruit and luxurious structure while those that seek rustic more eccentric flavors may find the Inama to be just what they are looking for. Personally, I loved both for their original take on the grape. Both went beyond the jammy overripe traits I often find in lower priced versions. I’d love to get these wines together again and pour them with Chilean versions in the same price range and see how they go over as it looks like I’m not anywhere near done being excited about this grape.