The bottle: 2012 Louis-Antoine Luyt “Trequilemu”
Origin: Maule Valley, located in the southern part of Chile’s largest winemaking region – the Central Valley. Previously an area known solely for bulk wine, there is a renewed interest from winemakers to make high-quality, organically farmed wine. Though Cabernet Sauvignon is by far the most widely planted grape in the region, Merlot, Carménère, and Carignan also thrive, some from vines planted hundreds of years ago.
Grape: 100% Carignan, a grape that originally hails from northeastern Spain (where it’s known as Cariñena or Mazuelo) but has found an even larger home in the Languedoc-Roussillon region of southeastern France. Wherever it’s grown, it is usually produced as a blend, which makes this varietal wine a bit unusual.
Uncorked: As a means of survival during this latest polar vortex. Are you aware that it’s freezing outside? It’s freezing outside. Do you know where it’s not freezing? In Chile, where half of our office is currently enjoying summertime and getting sunburns and visiting our new client, Santa Rita. So in my denial that I am here, freezing, in New York, I opened this Chilean wine in their honor. (You’re bringing me back a present, right?)
Behind the cork: Full disclosure: I tried to open this bottle with my new ah-so wine opener, even though I do not know how to use my ah-so wine opener yet, and I pushed the cork of this bottle halfway into the juice, at which time a bit splashed up out of the neck of the bottle and into my face. And the first thing I smelled – the thing that was, quite literally, behind the cork – was a funky farminess that I was completely not expecting from a Chilean wine.
But then again, this bottle doesn’t come from a Chilean winemaker – not by birth, at least. The Trequilemu Carignan comes from French native Louis-Antoine Luyt, who took a quick trip to South America in his 20’s, fell in love with wine at sommelier school in Santiago, and became determined to revolutionize Chilean winemaking, which was (and still is) largely dominated by huge industrial wineries. Luyt now focuses on making terroir-driven, organically-farmed wines, prioritizing acidity and freshness over alcohol and tannin.
The grapes for the Trequilemu come from a single parcel of 70-year-old vines and undergo carbonic maceration – the technique traditionally used to make Beaujolais – to create a purple-rimmed, fresh, fruity wine that drinks incredibly easily. Though it’s not a low or even moderately alcoholic wine at 13.5%, it doesn’t immediately present as a “big” wine, with light aromas of not-quite-ripe red and black plum, raspberry, blackberry, and dirt. It tastes darker than it smells, but still, it’s not a knock-you-in-the-face type wine, with the palate dominantly tasting of ripe fruit – mostly blackberries – and a combo of bright acid and moderate tannin keeping the structure in check. It’s interesting that the most immediate characteristic of this wine – the funk that was so apparent upon opening the bottle – fades to the background once you get into all the fruit. But walk away from the glass, come back, and you notice that it’s definitely there, keeping the fruit from being a bit too lush and one-dimensional.
Drink with… A bowl of beef stew! A burger! A steak! Notice a theme? Though the Trequilemu would be excellent with beef (pork and lamb too!), the great thing about this wine is that, while it has enough weight to stand up to heartier dishes, the soft fruit, fresh acidity, and moderate tannin keep the wine light enough to drink with light appetizers or on its own as well. Which is what I did, obviously.
The verdict: This is my kind of winter red – hearty enough to satisfy in sub-zero temps, but soft enough to drink without requiring food. Check and check!
SRP: $21 – $25