The Ancient French Variety: Carménère
Carménère is an ancient red grape variety from France, specifically the region of Bordeaux. Grande Vidure is another name for it. Phylloxera, an insect pest of commercial grapevines, decimated the stock of Carménère in the mid-19th century. Additionally, because winegrowers began to prefer other grape varieties and planted them in their vineyards, Carménère vines nearly disappeared from France.
Nowadays, it is one of the six grape varieties that can be processed into Bordeaux red wine, alongside Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Petit Verdot, and is primarily found in Chile and Italy. Chile, in particular, is thought to be the new home of the old variety due to a lack of phylloxera. To a lesser extent, the grape variety is now also grown in other regions of the world, including Australia, New Zealand, and Switzerland.
Carménère is a Chilean delicacy
The Carménère grape variety has frequently been confused with Merlot due to their external similarities. Even in Carménère, it was long thought to be a variety of Merlot. However, there are also distinct differences. Carménère grapes ripen later than Merlot grapes, and their leaves are reddish in color. Carménère is also thought to be more flavorful than Merlot. Chilean winemakers have thus identified Carménère wine as their specialty.
Aromas of tartness
The red wine from Carménère is perfect for wine lovers who enjoy tart flavors. The complex, dark red wine impresses with its round flavor, low acidity, and tannin content. The Carménère bouquet has spicy notes and a dark berry aroma. Cassis, cherry, blackcurrant, and peppers are among the flavors available to purchase, as are chocolate and tobacco. Tasters have described the flavor as chocolatey-leathery to peppery with integrated fruit sweetness. In any case, Carménère is a rich red wine with its own distinct personality.
A perfect pairing
The typical Carménère flavor makes the wine an excellent accompaniment to a variety of dishes. The robust and aromatic wine pairs particularly well with Mediterranean dishes, including pasta, white meat, and grilled dishes. Grilled vegetables and colorful tapas also pair beautifully with Carménère red wine. Creamy cheeses or dark chocolate complement the Carménère flavor and round it out.
Fun facts about Carménère
- Carménère is a slow-ripening grape that is best suited to long Indian summers.
- Carménère is a Merlot, Hondarribi Beltza (Basque Country), and Cabernet Sauvignon half-sibling.
- Carménère was brought to Chile in the middle of the 1800s, and until 1994, it was commonly confused with Merlot.
- Despite being almost extinct in its native Chile, carménère is the fifth-most significant grape there.
- Wines made in the Carménère style may incorporate up to 15% additional grape varietals.
Also read: Wine Profile Series: Merlot Wine
Key dates in Carménère’s history
In the 1980s, Karen Mulander-Magoon, co-owner of the Lake County, California winery Guenoc and Langtry Estates, planted the grape in her vineyard.
1990s: In the late 1990s, renowned viticulture specialist Dr. Richard Smart imported three cuttings of Chilean Carménère.
French ampelographist Jean Boursiquot, a researcher at Montpellier’s School of Oenology, determined that “an earlier-ripening vine was Bordeaux Carménère, not Merlot,” which led him to uncover Carménère as a singular varietal in Chile in 1994
Want to read more about Carménère? Try reading these books!
- Wine Grapes: A Complete Guide to 1,368 Vine Varieties, Including Their Origins and Flavours. Jancis Robinson 2012
- Wine. Years. People. Events. Massandra Wine Collection 2010
- The World Atlas of Wine: 8th Edition. Johnson, H & Robinson, J. 2019