Cono Sur 2008 Carmenère. Toughest wine review, ever.

Last week, in fact a few days before the 8.8RS earthquake struck Chile, I saw this Carmenère on sale at my local grocer. I remember it well because I often shoot cell-cam photos like these:

I do this to make a note of the price, so I can quote it correctly for you dear reader, when I finally sit down – either in an inebriated state, or perhaps even months afterwards, using notes and making sense on a second tasting of what I said while inebriated… right after the first tasting!

You see I often write up the review, then not hit “publish” because my writing just doesn’t make sense. Shocking, I know.

But little photographic nuggets like this are helpful in more ways than one. You see as I was at the check-out counter this particular bottle for some reason did not scan at the register. The cashier was about to call the wine dept when I said “It’s $9.99” and held up the photo on my phone’s screen. She looked at me like I was an alien. I also noted that she also moved as far away from me as she could within her little cashier’s pen… “Why do you take pictures of things like that?” she inquired, in a tone reserved for subjects such as Furries (really, do NOT google that term. I mean it. Seriously!) I sighed, put my phone in my pocket and, fully expecting her to call security any second, admitted I wrote wine reviews. Suddenly her demeanor changed, she no longer cringed at the far reaches of her workspace, but visibly relaxed and said “oh, that’s interesting!” and carried on checking and bagging my groceries.

What she couldn’t see in that photo, but you can as I’ve blown it up for you, is a strange faux pas committed by the wine dept:

I love a good Cabernet Sauvignon. It is indeed a fine Bordeaux grape, but so is Carmenère, which is a completely different varietal! Sure, Carmenère has often, and even famously, been confused with Merlot, but Cabernet Sauvignon? C’mon! The rest of that paragraph is just so much wine jargon bullshit that when combined with the goofy grape gaffe it nearly sent me into a rage. If I had my battle axe on me I might have gone berserk right there. A barbaric pillaging and burning of the grocery store. Instead I bid the cashier good-bye with a monosyllabic grunt and pushed my shopping cart menacingly out to my car.

I planned to open up the Carmenère in a few days when we expected an old friend of Mrs. Barbarian to come by for dinner. That dinner was postponed though, and I failed at securing this bottle from pillage by Mrs. Barbarian. Sure enough she plundered the cabinet where I keep bottles for imminent consumption, opened it, and drank a glass. To add injury to insult, she then put the bottle into the refrigerator! That is where I found it one morning when I went to make my breakfast… a bottle of Carmenère in the fridge door!


I pulled it out and set it upon the counter. It was a good thing that Mrs. Barbarian wan’t in the house at the time.

We drank the rest of the bottle at dinner, but given that it had been opened, and then refrigerated, I felt that any impressions I had of the wine may have been tainted by the poor treatment torture inflicted upon it by Mrs. Barbarian.

So I went back to the store a few days later. This was after the quake had rocked Chile, and I returned with the goal of buying nothing but Chilean wines. They’re going to need all the help thy can get, since wine is likely their second largest export item after copper, and while the copper mines are all located in the desert north which was largely unaffected by the quake, the vineyards are mostly located in the hardest hit regions of Chile. I bought four bottles of Cono Sur 2008 Carmenère, and once again the cash register didn’t ring it up properly and I said ‘It costs $9.99.” The cashier called the wine department who walked over with the tag for the cashier to scan and it came up $10.99. They had raised the price on me by a buck in under a week! I certainly hope they are not profiting on the tragedy in Chile. I felt like an heel for claiming a dollar discount per-bottle. The cashier eyed me suspiciously while I muttered about having bought the same bottle for $9.99 the week before.

This is not a great wine, but it certainly is a great value wine. Very much like most Chileans, in that you get good quality for a very low price. A wine of this level from here in California would set you back $30—$45, but coming from Chile it is around ten bucks. Viva Chile!

I heartily recommend this wine as a “nightly drinker” value wine. Great with dinners at home, or no particular special occasion. As a Carmenère it doesn’t stand up to many of the samples I’ve tried, but it is certainly a reasonable representation of the grape. Lots of flavor, and stands up to spicy foods well.

Given how hard I worked to get to this point I would have loved to uncovered a gem, but this one wasn’t that amazing. Good, but not great.

Cono Sur 2008 Carmenère
About $10.00

  1. 2 Responses to “Cono Sur 2008 Carmenère. Toughest wine review, ever.”

  2. By St. Bernardus on Mar 6, 2010

    Nice review–glad to see you writing them again. I enjoy the blog.

    Cono Sur wines are great value, no doubt. If you can, check out their “vision” series–maybe $15 or so, but really good.

  3. By Vinagoth on Mar 6, 2010

    Thanks! Various life issues have kept me away, but I’m back!

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