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Carmenère

Although uncommon, the first-rate Carmenère grape variety produces full-bodied wines with character and soft tannins. Originally from Bordeaux, this almost forgotten red grape found a new home in the Americas. Produced predominantly in Chile, Carmenère wines are dark and full-bodied. They exhibit aromas of leather, cocoa, tobacco and dark berries.
The Carmenère grape variety is originally from Bordeaux.

Berry aromas

The name Carmenère stands for an altogether harmonious wine. Since its soft tannins and restrained acidity make for great suppleness, newcomers to the world of wine-tasting also find this wine immediately appealing.
Blackcurrants, cassis, blackberries and cherries – Carmenère is positively bursting with berry aromas. Hints of chocolate, tobacco and leather lend it a subtle tart fruitiness. Carmenère produced as a single varietal allows its own particular flavour profile to shine through. It also gains complexity from barrique-ageing.
Carmenère wine is distinguished by its dark purple hue. Although often mistaken for Merlot, Carmenère wines have a much higher alcohol content. They can hold their own against red Bordeaux grapes, taking their place in the pantheon of extract-rich and full-bodied red wines. In this respect Carmenère ranks third after Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet franc.
A Carmenère wine is the perfect match for poultry, dark meats and strong-flavoured mature cheeses.

The bumpy fortunes of the Carmenère grape

It would not have taken much for the valuable Carmenère grape variety to have sunk into oblivion, for phylloxera raged through French vineyards in the 19th century, destroying swathes of grapevines. The catastrophe almost wiped out this variety that until then had been grown chiefly in France.
Bordeaux is the cradle of the Carmenère grape variety. It emerged there from a natural crossing between Cabernet franc and Gros Cabernet. It is very probably named after the carmine-red colour of the grapes and the red shoots of its leaves. It has ranked among the most popular grapes on the Médoc peninsula since the beginning of the 18th century. Together with Cabernet franc, it was responsible for the excellent reputation of the top Châteaux there. Until phylloxera struck, it was a highly regarded blending component of Bordeaux wines. However, in the aftermath of this plague it disappeared almost completely from European soil. French winegrowers abandoned this susceptible grape and replanted their vineyards with other varieties. Until the early 1990s it was thought to be extinct. Thankfully a French oenologist rediscovered it and helped bring it to prominence once again. He discovered it not in its homeland, but far from its origins, namely in Chile.It had been imported into South America shortly before the outbreak of phylloxera in the Old World. Because of its similar shape, Chilean winegrowers believed it to be a variant of Merlot. They planted Carmenère with Merlot and blended the two varieties. After the misidentification had been discovered, Chilean winemakers recognized the special characteristics of this variety and saw the potential of the grape. While French winegrowers are still working on reviving it and continue to employ it in blends, in the New World the Carmenère grape variety is vinified as a single varietal. Carmenère is now a firm fixture as a Chilean speciality in the world of wines.

Cultivation of the Carmenère variety around the globe

Carmenère is a late-ripening grape and yields can be unreliable. It is very sensitive to cold and only ripens well in warm regions. The vine is prone to coulure and its roots are also susceptible to disease – attributes that would scare off most winegrowers. As a result it is still not widely planted. The main countries in which it is grown are Chile and Italy, but it is also cultivated in New Zealand and Australia, and to a lesser extent in Switzerland.

Carmenère wines from Chile

As Chile escaped phylloxera and provides all the right climatic conditions, this country rose to become the main producer of Carmenère wines. It has approximately 8,800 hectares planted with Carmenère vines. The variety is mainly found in the winegrowing regions of Rapel, Maule and the Central Valley. Here the temperature never drops below 10 degrees Celsius, even at night, during the growing phase. It is vinified as a single varietal.
South American winemakers like to age Carmenères for up to 4 years in oak barrels. For example, Chile’s largest wine producer Concha y Toro allows them to age for this amount of time.

Carmenère wines from Italy

Italy ranks second on the list of countries where Carmenère is grown. Known as “Carmenoro” there, this grapevine covers 1,000 hectares. The vineyards are mostly located in northeastern Italy. Top of the winegrowing regions are Friuli, Lombardy and Veneto.
Italian winegrowers also misidentified the vine. In the 1980s and early 1990s, they planted it in the belief that they were cultivating Cabernet franc. It was not until later in the 1990s that they began to gradually identify their grapevines as being Carmenère. In the meantime, the grape has been recognized as a quality variety and is permitted in a few DOC appellations. For instance, the Vigna Dogarina winery in Campodipietra is famous for its premium Carmenère wines.
Discover a very special wine. Mondovino and Coop stores stock wines made from this grape from various major winegrowing regions.