From the Old World to the New, good winemaking has made for good stories. Stories of greed, wealth, genius and love: never let truth get in the way of a good story. When Don Melchor found the Pirque (near Santiago) locals pilfering wine from his locked cellar, he quickly spread a rumour that the deepest, darkest cellars were haunted by the devil. And so the legend of Casillero del Diablo (the devil’s cellar) was born.
Fast forward more than a century and Casillero del Diablo is drunk and enjoyed across the globe. Despite the various microclimates, Chile is a winemaker’s Utopia. Or would that be Uruguay? Long, sunny days and cooling winds combined with traditional techniques and French varietals make for smooth, flavourful, value wines. Concha y Toro grows Sauvignon Blanc, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz, Pinot Noir and Carménère for the Casillero del Diablo label.
Collaborations with Manchester United and International awards aside, when most think of Chilean wine they think of Casillero del Diablo. The celebrated label thrives on another story: the mystery of the carménère grape. This medium bodied red grape originated in Medoc, north of Bordeaux, but is now almost exclusively grown in Chile. The grape is named for the colour of its brilliant crimson foliage in late autumn (carmin is French for crimson).
In a case of mistaken identity, for decades the vines were thought to be Merlot. Luckily after the devastating 19th century Phylloxera outbreak when Bordeaux’s carménère was wiped out it was discovered that Chile’s ‘merlot’ was indeed the treasured grape. It had been finicky to grow in its Bordeaux marine climate but thrived in the valleys surrounding Santiago with its hot days and sparse rainfall.
Casillero del Diablo discovered the Peumo Valley provided the ideal terroir and started planting in 1998, with the varietal now synonymous with the brand and the flagship Chilean varietal. What merlot is to Argentina, carménère is to Chile.
Casillero del Diablo Carménère has consistently won prestigious awards since 2005. A deep, dark purple wine with luscious fruit flavours and dark chocolate hints. It would be perfect with duck – with not too sweet cherries. Or with quality dark chocolate after dinner – devilish.
Casillero del Diablo is available nationally at Dan Murphy’s & BWS.