Where in the World is Carmin de Peumo? 04/13/11

Let me tell you a story, of grapes and of glory,
The tale of a marvelous wine:
Though my praise is effusive, she proved quite elusive –
But still, in the end she was mine.

She was born in a region where great wine is legion
(The soil is perfect for farmin’) –
Even so, I’ll attest that she’s truly the best:
That most sippable, sumptuous Carmin.

– Anonymous


As you may have inferred from my elegant verse, or perhaps from the title of my review, I’m about to discuss Concha y Toro’s 2005 Carmin de Peumo, the winery’s signature offering, produced in Rapel Valley from the finest grapes in the Peumo Vineyard. This is reputedly the best Carmenere in Chile.

The short and somewhat obvious answer to my titular question, then, would be “I drank it.” But there’s another, longer answer, which I feel would be much more satisfying to the average reader, so I think I’ll give you that one, too.

Carmin was elusive; there’s no getting around that. First of all, at $120 a bottle, she’s priced well out of my usual drinking range. But even with a generous sponsor (thanks again, Ben!) footing the bill, we had to turn to the good folks at Concha y Toro weeks ahead of schedule for help in locating this delectable lady. Ben even purchased an $80 Riedel decanter for the occasion, just to make sure we could taste her at her best. So was it worth it? All that money, all that effort, all those sleepless nights of anticipation?

Are you really asking that?

Folks, every once in a while, a wine comes along that you don’t drink so much as experience: a wine beyond all wines you’ve known before. That, my friends, was Carmin.

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I’m just kidding, of course; you aren’t really my friends.

You may remember my last vino-centric excursion to Hoboken, NJ, during which Carmin’s lovely cousin, Terrunyo, was enjoyed by all (that is to say, both) in attendance. You may also remember an even earlier writeup I posted of Marques de Casa Concha, a terrific wine at a reasonable $20 – and that’s to say nothing of Casillero del Diablo, an even more affordable (and ubiquitous) brand of which I’ve long been a devoted drinker.

So make no mistake: you don’t have to spend $100+ to get a great bottle of Carmenere. But we needed to see for ourselves what makes Carmin the Queen: we just plain had to taste her, frugality be damned. I mean, just look at her.

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I’ll…be right back.

The first thing we noticed about Carmin was, curiously, the bottle itself: it was much heavier than your average 750 ml container, which we concluded must have been for reasons of security: first, the thickness of the glass will prevent the bottle from shattering, should the unthinkable happen; and second, it serves as a wonderful implement to club people over the head with, should they try to steal your Carmin away from you.

Anyway, we decided to try a glass apiece before decanting the Carmin, to see what difference it would make. Decanting is usually recommended for older wines, as it provides them a chance to aerate beyond what one might accomplish simply through swirling the glass (it’s also a way of filtering out any lingering particles of sediment in your wine, if you’re the sort of coward who’s scared of a little wine-sand).

Even right after uncorking, though, Carmin was a beauty: inky purple with ruby-brown edges, she presented a bafflingly complex nose of crushed tobacco leaves, cocoa powder, and toasted coffee beans, which opened up to blackcurrant and (I believe) tarragon after decanting. The palate opened with a delightful, cassis attack, evolving to notes of tobacco, blackberry and black pepper. To call the dark chocolate and berry finish a “finish” at all might be a misnomer: flavors persisted well in excess of a minute (and haunt my dreams to this very day).

To speak of balance would be similarly silly; Carmin could walk a tightrope in heels (perhaps owing to small amounts of Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc blended in). Bright but not acidic, this wine had some of the sneakiest tannins I’ve ever encountered, which silently carried her forward on her journey through my palate, accentuating flavors without overpowering them.

If I could speak of one flaw, it would be that the bottle emptied far too quickly, leaving me with a broken heart, and a decanter full of sorrow.

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Good to the last drop – I just had to be sure.

I award Carmin de Peumo thumbs up (my ratings scale does, in fact, go to 11). So why not a perfect 11? I’ll tell you: Carmin is indeed the best wine I’ve ever had, hands down – but she just wasn’t three times as good as Terrunyo, even though she cost it.

Plus, she won’t return my calls.

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