Peumo | Heartland of Carmenère
by Philip Reedman MW
It is said that great wine is made in the vineyard.
For this great wine we’ll drive south from Chile’s capital city, Santiago, enjoying spectacular views of the Andes mountains on our left. After two hours we’ll arrive at Peumo. A sub-region within Cachapoal Valley DO, Peumo is the heartland of top-quality Carmenère in Chile, and therefore by definition, of the world.
Carmenère originated in Bordeaux, but en-route to Chile in the 19th century, confusion set in, and it became known as Merlot. Shortly afterwards, in the wake of Phylloxera, Bordeaux was replanted and Carmenère did not make the replanting list. Châteaux owners didn’t replant Carmenère because in so many vintages it just wouldn’t ripen properly in the cool, maritime climate of Bordeaux. And so Carmenère disappeared from the viticultural stage. Fast forward to 1994 when a French ampelographer (a scientist who studies and identifies grape varieties) ‘rediscovered’ Carmenère growing in Chile under its assumed identity of Merlot. In 1998, Chile officially recognized the variety and the rest is history. They’re even replanting Carmenère in Bordeaux!
As the Bordelais knew, Carmenère is a late ripening grape variety; it is often picked four weeks after other red varieties are safely fermenting away in the cellar. Making a great Carmenère wine requires a long growing season so that the grapes ripen fully without the threat of a cold and wet autumn. In this, Peumo excels. Peumo is close enough to the moderating influence of the Pacific Ocean for the vines to get off to an early start in spring, spared from the risk of devastating spring frosts. But Peumo is inland, and sufficiently sheltered to have the warm summers and mild autumns which allow Carmenère to thrive. Water-retentive silty-clay soil nourishes the vines even on the hottest days, allowing the winemaker to pick gloriously ripe, flavour-packed grapes.
So, while Carmenère may be Peumo, Peumo is more than Carmenère. Select the right vineyard site and Peumo, you’ll discover that it makes wonderful Syrah, Pinot Noir and Sauvignon Blanc too. It’s all about selecting the right vineyard conditions: altitude, soil and slope, to get those pristine, bright flavours into the wines.
Viña La Rosa’s Peumo Carmenère is a rich, full-bodied, smooth red wine. It is filled with dark fruit flavours, spices and hints of exotic truffle. Excellent with game meats, grilled steak and matured cheeses, you can enjoy this now or keep it for up to three years. Peumo; we’re confident you’ll love it.
Philip Reedman MW lives in Adelaide, South Australia. Philip is an educator for the Wine and Spirit Education Trust and is involved in education through the Institute of Masters of Wine. He works as a consultant to a number of wineries and vineyards in South Australia and internationally.