After leading Chilean winemaker Álvaro Espinoza blogged for us during harvest this year, I was pleased to discover Viñedos Emiliana’s Natura Carmenère at a Chelsea wine shop. Espinoza, a big proponent of biodynamics, consults for the brand, which is the organic project of the Guilisasti family, owners of Chilean giant Concha y Toro.
As I’m always looking for variety, Carmenère provides a nice change of pace. Long mistaken for Merlot (Espinoza helped uncover its identity), it has become one of Chile’s signature red grapes now that it’s farmed properly. Typically fruity with soft tannins, the variety is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon or Syrah to give it more structure.
More than half of Emiliana’s 2,800 acres of vineyards—which span Chile’s prime wine regions—have organic and biodynamic certification and the rest are in transition. The 2008 Natura, which is certified from organic grapes, is a blend of 86 percent Carmenère from the Los Robles estate in Colchagua Valley and 14 percent Syrah from Los Morros in Maipo Valley, and aged in oak for six months.
Bright, juicy berry and plum aromas carried through on the palate, along with hints of herbs and oak, to a tangy finish. Very good for the price, the medium-bodied red went well with a classic meal of grilled steak, mashed potatoes and string beans, and I gave it 87 points, non-blind. I'll be bringing a bottle to Thanksgiving as well, as its fruit-forward character should hold up with the dinner’s vast range of flavors.
WineSpectator.com members: Read the original blind-tasting review for Emiliana Carmenère Central Valley Natura 2008 (87, $11).
• Plus, get our quick list of Top Values in Chilean reds.
To learn more about Emiliana, read James Molesworth's members-only blog interviews with winemaker Antonio Bravo, consultant Alvaro Espinoza and the Guilisasti brothers of Concha y Toro. Or check out our free-access Winemaker Talk with Álvaro Espinoza and find out why Prince Charles visited Emiliana in our Unfiltered column.