Carmenere, like Albertans on a beach in the Caribbean in February, loves the heat. It is tough to grow in cold, humid climates as it requires more heat to ripen than other varietals. As a result it has fallen out of favour in France, and for that matter most of Europe.
One of the most ancient Bordeaux varietals, Carmenere, was very common in the Medoc region of France because of its deep colour, and flavour that is recognized as herbal to gamy. Seldom used on its own, this variety was very popular in blends. Because Carmenere has a high juice to skin ratio, it produces wines that are not as astringent as Cabernet Sauvignon. Although some experts think Carmenere is a long-established clone of Cabernet Sauvignon.
In the 1850’s, Carmenere was imported into South America prior to the outbreak of Phylloxera, a microorganism that infects grape plant roots. In the 1980’s Chile made inroads in the commercial wine markets with high qualitiy wines that they labeled as Merlot. In 1994, it was found that these wines were actually Carmenere.
Carmenere is perhaps the deepest, darkest, “purplest” of all red grapes, so it produces deep dark wines. The wine produced from Carmenere is rich in berry fruits and spice, reminiscent of blackberries and black pepper. Carmenere wine is smooth and velvety, almost Merlot-like, with well rounded tannins. In blind tastings it is also quite often mistaken for Malbec. It goes great with red meats.
Discover Carmenere this month, with Selection International Chilean Carmenere and Cellar Craft’s Showcase Chilean Carmenere.