We all love a mystery, don’t we? So, when I read that a certain wine was from a secret vineyard location, I was intrigued. Add in some exclusivity – only 1200 bottles were made (the equivalent of just 4 Bordeaux barriques) and that the wine was intended for the producing family’s own use – and I was properly hooked! It’s a great marketing story and, of course, it might be true (although the cynic in me is doubtful), but true or not, the ploy worked and I bought a bottle.
And, did it live up to the hype? Absolutely it did!
De Martino’s ‘On the QT’ Carmenere (Waitrose, £19.99), from a ‘tiny plot of special vines tucked away in Chile’s Isla de Maipo’, was full of delicious black fruit flavours and the oak ageing was subtle and just right – in short, it was the best Carmenere I’ve tasted by some way. Until now, I’d thought it was a grape variety that produced perfectly drinkable medium-bodied reds, but nothing exceptional. After this, I’m certainly revising my opinion.
Carmenere, itself, is a bit of a mystery grape. Widely grown in Bordeaux before the phylloxera devastation towards the end of the 19th century, it was mainly ignored when the replanting took place and is now only found in a few isolated spots there. But, about 20 years ago, it was ‘discovered’ in Chile in some vineyards previously thought to be Merlot (the original cuttings for these vines are said to have come from Bordeaux). As a result, Chile now has the world’s largest planting of the grape and a unique selling point to offer alongside their real Merlot.
For lovers of mysteries, Waitrose have other bottlings in their ‘On the QT’ series: a Malbec, Gruner Veltliner, Fiano, Grenache and Chardonnay from Australia and even a port. I’ve not tried any of them yet but, if the Carmenere is typical, they are worth seeking out – if you can find them.