concha y toro carmenere

Soccer Mom Sommelier: 2013 Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Riserva Carmenere

Have you ever planned out a blog post, only to have it end up going in a completely different direction that you had originally intended?

A while back my mom suggested I pick a Malbec to taste. With Argentina effectively adopting Malbec as it’s national wine and amping up production in the past couple decades, this grape has become widely popular while maintaining an affordable price.  That being said, I’m not a huge fan.

I was game though, and figured I could find a Malbec I actually liked.  Instead, while at the grocery store (yes, I was in a grocery store) I spotted a bottle of Carmenere (which is essentially Chile’s national grape), and thought perhaps I could offer a Malbec alternative.  At $9 a bottle, it would be quite the bargain if was pleasant to drink.  This was detour number one from my original post vision.

On Wednesday night (don’t judge!) I decided to have a glass of wine and draft the blog post in advance.  Usually I do my wine tastings on the weekend, but this week had been insanely busy and the weekend looked fully scheduled, so I didn’t want to put off my writing and find later that I didn’t have the time or was too tired.

I polished my crystal, poured a glass, photographed the bottle, got out my trusty tasting notebook, and sat down to enjoy.  Except I didn’t.  The wine was a beautiful deep hue of ruby-purple in my glass.  It begged to be drank and promised rich, fruity, and exotic flavors.  But it didn’t deliver.  I did taste fruit, but it was tart: cranberries and not-quite-ripe blueberries.  There was an overwhelming spice of black pepper.  Where were the raspberries, blackberries, and hints of chocolates the label had described?

The next day when mom came to visit I showed her the bottle and explained my dilemma.  I remembered loving Carmenere the first time I had tried the varietal– had I just picked the wrong brand?  What was I going to write about this week?

Mom made herself a little tasting glass. “I like it.” she said, “Have you tried it a second time?”  Seeing as it was only 3pm the next day, I hadn’t.  But as she pointed out, some wines need to be opened for a while to mellow and develop their flavors.  I had been planning on giving it a second chance (who throws away a practically full bottle anyway?) but now I would do so with a more open mind.

And you know what?  It WAS better the next day.  Not just drinkable, but enjoyable.  Gone was the harsh pepper that bludgeoned the other flavors into submission.  The fruits had “ripened,” and now my glass was full of jammy raspberries, blackberries, and even a little pomegranate.  There was still a spice component, but it was a compliment to the rest of the elements.

What I hope you will take away from this post is not just a solid bottle of Chilean wine, but that some wines may need to “air out” before drinking.  We’ve all been taught that red wine needs to be enjoyed as soon as possible or it will start to get a vinegary taste (the official term = oxidization.)  But counterintuitively, some wines can actually use a little air.

So if you open a bottle and the first glass seems harsh, try a couple things:

  1. Leave your glass on the counter for 30 minutes and come back to it.  Red wine glasses are designed to have a large surface area, so this is almost as effective as a decanter.
  2. Decant the bottle.  If you have company and know you’ll finish the bottle that night and maybe have some fancy glassware you want to show, why not?  Again, you should be good to start drinking in 30 minutes.
  3. Cork the bottle and revisit in a day or two like I did.  Low surface area and a cork mean that you have a little extra time to get back to it.
  4. They do have a fancy gadget called an aerator that you can pour the wine through and speed up the process.  It’s not a necessity–I’ve shown you some ways that don’t require buying anything– but it is a neat party trick and could be a unique gift for that difficult person on your Christmas list.

I didn’t set out to write an educational post, but nothing about this one went the way I had planned. However, this offered an opportunity to share some simple advice for saving “bad” wine.  Maybe the wine isn’t bad after all, but just needs a little extra TLC.  If you’re like me and cringe at wasting wine (or any food/beverage– a value instilled in me by Depression-era grandparents), you can worry less when trying a new wine– if it’s not thrilling at first sip, a second chance could change everything.

Cheers to saving money and wine!

7 thoughts on “Soccer Mom Sommelier: 2013 Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Riserva Carmenere

  1. bcbonusmom

    I have to agree that I had the same ‘distaste’ with a few wine choices over the years, until I was introduced to the aerator. My ex boyfriend was a huge wine connoisseur and I received a Vinturi Wine Aerator for a gift upon his return from a trip one time and OMGness….it was amazing to sit down and do the ‘taste test’. Incredible difference. Most importantly…NO wasted wine 🙂

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