Today's puzzle: Whatever happened to the carmenere grape, which was a regular minor character in the red wines and vineyards of Bordeaux until the phylloxera devastation of at the end of the 1800s?
Well, it migrated to Chile before the crisis and masqueraded there as merlot for almost a century. It has been rediscovered and is now the signature of Chilean reds. La Playa's is a fine example, but there are others you should explore.
On the vine, carmenere looks like merlot and in the glass it gives a similar soft roundness, yet it has extra color and depth. La Playa's carmenere tastes like a Left Bank Bordeaux, deep and broad with lots of chocolate and black fruit, quite rich for being only a few years old and only a few dollars.
Put some away for a cool night this winter — and more to come.
Availability: $10 to $12, in select stores.
Chris Sherman, Times staff writer