Thursday, November 24, 2016

Casillero del Diablo -- Two Red Blends

Several months ago, a teetotaler friend of mine was considering taking up drinking because people had told her of the benefits of wine. I knew that she didn't want to spend a lot of money -- the very thought of spending ANY money on alcohol was strange enough for her -- so I recommended Casillero del Diablo, which had become my go-to brand for good, basic wines on a budget. Because I'd made the recommendation in face-to-face conversation, she didn't quite get the name; later, when I reiterated the recommendation in writing, she told me that up to that point, she'd hoped to find it if she searched for "devil wine."

Around that same time, I very much enjoyed the Winemaker's Red Blend, but this autumn, I couldn't remember whether I'd had the 2014 or the 2015. At the state store (where my Pennsylvanians at?), I spotted the 2015 Winemaker's Red Blend at $11 (+ tax) per 750 ml, but for three dollars more, there was the 2015 Devil's Collection red blend -- I'm not capitalizing that because I didn't see the words "red blend" anywhere on the bottle, but that's what it was. I decided to buy both to compare and contrast.

Casillero del Diablo Winemaker's Red Blend (2015)
Chilean Red Wine -- Central Valley
Unspecified Grapes/Component Wines
13.5% ABV

Color: Lovely reddish-purple with deep crimson hues.

Body: Rich and elegant.

Nose: Tart. Smoky. Breathing in places tobacco (at least what I imagine tobacco tastes like) and tannins in the back of my throat. A gentle sweetness brushes over a hefty, fermented grape underpinning. Concord grape juice. A zesty zing of alcohol pierces through.

Palate: Juicy with notes of red plums, black plums, and a leathery underpinning. More tobacco (again, what I imagine tobacco tastes like) and assertive tannins. Tart red grapes. Ashy aftertaste. After being open (but vacuum-stop sealed) for about a week, the flavor improved. Given the opportunity to breathe, albeit slightly, this wine developed nice, bright, sweet red grape notes. The tannins became less assertive, instead providing a decent foundation. A bit of black pepper sliced through. Some warm, toasty notes with faint hints of smoke and dark chocolate. Red grape skins did sneak in after a while, contributing a tad more bitterness than I would have liked, but what do you want from a cheap red blend? Still juicy and mouth-filling, but smoother, brighter, and (most surprising for a wine that’s been OPEN for a week) more flavorful.

Overall: At first, I thought, “It gets the job done if money’s tight, but I don’t like it as much as I remembered.” So I tried a Calimocho with this and I became hooked. I thought this might be good for other red wine cocktails, but I made a few Calimochos and then drank the rest of it straight. So I guess you’ll have to experiment with it!

(Winemaker's Red Blend on the left, Devil's Collection red blend on the right)

Casillero del Diablo Devil’s Collection Red Blend (2015)
Chilean Wine – Rapel Valley
65% Syrah, 20% Cabernet Sauvignon, 15% Carmenere
13.5% ABV

Color: Same as previous, but a bit deeper.

Body: Even richer and more elegant.

Nose: Assertive tartness and sweetness. Fresh black plums. Fresh apricots. A hint of fresh pineapple. Surprisingly bright for a red wine. Dark grape skins. Sweetened dried pineapple.

Palate: Smooth, but with a slight bite towards the finish. Red grape juice with a peppery heat sneaking in. Oddly enough, bright touches of fresh white grapes. Tangerines. Restrained tannins. Mild vegetal notes here and there. A fleeting smokiness in the aftertaste. After being open (but vacuum-stop sealed) for about a week, the profile became lighter and smoother overall, less citric and less spicy. Though dry overall, there was a subtle round sweetness. Dark chocolate became quite prominent, especially towards the finish.

Overall: A very sippable red wine on a budget.

But wait! There's more.

Just for the (ahem) hell of it, I tried blending the two in equal parts when they were both newly-opened.

Color: Deep purple with crimson tinges.

Body: Between silky and velvety.

Nose: Spicy. Tangy. Woody. Savory with a sweet top note.

Palate: Wow! Earthy. Citric. Smoky. Leathery. Mouth-filling red grape juice. Tangerines. Mild tannins providing balance and structure. Nice savory foundation with a sprinkling of fruit sugar. Begging to be paired with dark chocolate! Or so I thought until I paired it with dark chocolate…yuck.

Thank you for reading, and as always...Happy Drinking!

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