In the past couple of years, I've been introduced to a number of interesting Chilean carmeneres.
1. The family-owned Viña Koyle, where the vineyards are certified biodynamic, got its start in 2006. Winemaker (and family member) Cristobal Undurraga tries to make carmenere that exhibits spicy black fruit coupled with freshness. The 2009 Koyle "Royale" Carmenere ($26) demonstrates that: It's lively and fresh, with lush fruit, cracked pepper, a hint of espresso and fine tannins.
2. The less expensive 2010 Reserva Carmenere ($17), also by Undurraga, is a little more rustic, with spicy fruit and a hint of orange peel.
3. Santa Rita is a large winery that makes some very good wines in a variety of price categories. Its moderately priced 2008 Santa Rita "Medalla Real" Carmenere ($20) is dark and dense, with black fruit, a note of cracked pepper and firm structure.
4. From Casa Silva, the 2009 Los Lingues Gran Reserva Carmenere ($22) displays similar flavors but finer tannins. It's still very tight and benefits from some air.
5. In addition to an inexpensive reserva carmenere, Apaltagua, in good vintages, makes a high-end carmenere called Grial. The 2008 Apaltagua Grial ($75) is dark and concentrated, with juicy black fruit and the typical savory, peppery notes.
6. Another red that can be really interesting is syrah. Concha y Toro's Marcelo Papa thinks the future of Chilean syrah lies in the cooler areas, and that's the source of the 2008 Concha y Toro "Terrunyo" Syrah ($38), which is from Casablanca Valley, best known for sauvignon blanc. The wine is dark and dense, with ripe blackberry, spice and white pepper.
7. Matetic's vineyards are in the cool San Antonio Valley, near the coast. The company produces syrahs under the Corralillo and EQ labels. The 2010 Corralillo Syrah ($28; 2009 also is available) offers bright berry accented by notes of smoke, pepper, meat and lavender, while the 2009 EQ Syrah ($43) is more concentrated and structured.
8. The 2009 Cono Sur "20 Barrels" Syrah ($32; available early next year) is from another cool-climate area, Limari Valley, and displays lots of spicy and floral notes.
9. Viña Koyle is in the warmer Colchagua Valley but manages to make syrah with some cool-climate nuances, like lavender, spice and roasted meat. The 2008 Koyle "Royale" Syrah ($26; 2007 is the current vintage) is spicy and meaty, with lively blackberry and firm tannins. (The 2010 Reserva Syrah, at $17, is also very good.)
10. The grapes for the 2009 Lapostolle "Cuvee Alexandre" Syrah ($25) come from the Cachapoal Valley, at the base of the Andes. The wine is dense and concentrated, with savory notes of roasted meat, white pepper and spice, combined with plenty of plump, sweet blackberry fruit.
Contact Laurie Daniel at email@example.com.