Carménère was one of the original red grapes of Bordeaux, but after most of Europe’s vineyards were decimated in the late 1800s, Carménère was largely omitted during vineyard replanting and was eventually presumed extinct. Little did anyone know, Carménère had been thriving in Chile since in the 1850s under the name…Merlot!! Chile had great success with ‘Merlot’ for decades, until a French researcher identified the vast majority of Chilean ‘Merlot’ as the lost grape Carménère! This noble grape has French roots, but the modern identify of Chile’s flagship grape will forever be Chilean.
Wines made from Carménère are typically medium-to-full bodied, with supple tannin and moderate acidity, similar to Merlot. Aromas and flavors usually include purple flowers, ripe black fruit, baked plum, camphor, bell pepper, spice, bitter chocolate, and green peppercorn.
VITICULTURE + WINEMAKING
Carménère is a late-ripening variety that needs a warm climate to ripen sufficiently and ameliorate excessive ‘green’ flavors like bell pepper and jalapeño. The grape has an affinity for new oak and is often produced as a single-varietal wine or used as a blending grape to soften more structured grapes like Cabernet Sauvignon. Chile’s Central Valley appellations are undoubtedly the modern-day hub for Carménère production in the world, but the grape still plays a minor role in Bordeaux, and is used to good effect in California, Washington State, Italy, and China, where the ‘Cabernet Gernischt’ grape has recently been identified as Carménère.
FOOD + WINE
Carménère is particularly well-suited for heavy, roasted, and spicy foods. Carménère is also a natural match for smoked and grilled meats, cumin-spiced dishes, savory greens, and Peruvian lamb stew with coriander. Dishes that feature green olives, bell peppers, eggplant, or green beans usually find an excellent pairing in Carménère, and the grape also does well with mild Mexican food, Middle Eastern-style meatballs, and all the bacon you can throw at it.
WORLD CARMENERE DAY
World Carménère Day is on November 24th! Join the world in celebrating the date this delicious ‘lost variety of Bordeaux’ was rediscovered in the vineyards of Chile! #CarmenereDay