When you think of Chilean wine, you probably don’t immediately think of Norwegian shipping magnate and his family, but you might think of the lost grape of Carmenère.
But in this case, the pioneering spirit of Dan Odfjell and shipping company Armador came together in a corner of the now famous Maipo Valley to create some stellar wine.
Currently being run by the second generation, Odfjell Vineyards works with properties in Maipo, where the build of the estate vineyards are, but also with Lontué Valley and Cauquenes Valley, with the goal of showing the true expression of this terroir with Cabernet, Merlot, Syrah, Malbec, Carignan, and of course – Chile’s shining star – Carmenère.
Odfjell Vineyard’s mission in both the shipping busines sand in the wine business is be sustainable, and this vision captures the best of Chile in a bottle.
One evening last fall, I sat down with winemaker Arnaud Hereu, who has been with the winery since day one, and brought his Bordeaux sensibility to the table, along with a global winemaking education, to create these wines. Arnaud is a non-interventionist, and strongly believes that biodynamics are the best way to make wine. Having been the winemaker for Odjefell Vineyards since inception, he is entrenched in the Chilean culture, and seeks to bring out the best of the unique terroir, naturally.
Wines of note:
Inky and black, these 100 year old bush trained vines were almost completely abandoned in Chile 20 years ago, these old vines were spared and, are an important part of the social welfare of Chile as the rise in the grape’s popularity helps develop vineyard and winemaking.
This flagship wine is bright, and sees no oak but smolders with blueberries and plum, with a hint of mission fig. come forward with blueberry and blackberry notes. Arnaud feels this is the pure expression of terroir, where characteristic blueberry shines through. The finish is powdery gravel.
The Odfjell Carignan is 100% Carignan, and it’s from the oldest property in their portfolio, in the Maule Valley. The juxtaposition of a bright and acid driven red competes with the rich, juicy and unctuous palate and was perfect with our meal. This was a winner for QPR at only $23.
A mind boggling $15 SRP, the Odjfell Vineyards Carmènré has all of the hallmarks of Chilean Carmènré – with hints of dusty herbs, green notes and more; however it is a modern Carmènré that is a sign of times to come in the Maipo.
This lost grape of Bordeaux was, until relatively recently , miscategorized as Merlot in Chile, and it has just begun to come in to its own – with single varietals and blends that are becoming more popular. It has been primarily a blending grape in the past, because when picked too early, it tends to show more pyrazine and green notes (that’s that green pepper / green bean flavor that personally, I can’t stand, and feel is a flaw). But, once properly identified, they begun to pick it at full ripeness, which really blossomed the development of a single varietal Carmènré in Chile.
Odfjell Vineyards makes this as a 91% Carmenère from organic and biodynamic grapes (though not certified) with a touch (9%) of Malbec for richness and uses a blend of sources from Maipo and Maule Valleys.
I never really enjoyed Carmenère because of the aforementioned greenness, but this was an exception. Silky and smooth, the blackberry punch is followed by popping acid and fresh plums. Fermented in stainless steel and concrete “bowls”, the lack of oak makes for a fresh and mineral rich wine with only 13.5% ABV.
So, if you’re looking for a value priced wine with style, look no further than Odfjell Wines!