Carménère Grape Variety
The Carménère grape has found its home in Chile, but during the early19th century it was one of the most widely cultivated grape varieties in the Médoc and Graves regions of Bordeaux where it was a valued blending partner of Cabernet Franc. However its susceptibility to phylloxera led growers to uproot the vine in the 1860s and replacing it with better yielding grape varieties such as Merlot.
Carménère was first introduced in Chile in the 19th century where it thrived on the country’s phylloxera-free vineyards, as most of its vines are planted on native rootstock. For a long time it stayed in obscurity, as it was mixed with Merlot plantings in the vineyards; however, in recent times it has been correctly identified, vinified and labelled separately in its own right.
In Chile it is typically blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, imparting succulent and luxurious fruitiness and many of the country’s flagship wines incorporate judicious proportions of Carménère in their blends. It is now also increasingly being bottled as a single varietal wine.
Carménère wines are deeply coloured and are usually well structured with smooth, well-rounded tannins, and ripe berry fruit flavours. Cooler climate regions, like the coastal Limari in Chile, produce an earthy, leaner, more elegant style with crunchy red fruit and green pepper flavours. Warmer climates, like in Maipo, give concentrated, heady wines, inky-coloured and with opulent notes of dark chocolate, soy sauce and black pepper.