Carmenere is a grape variety very much associated with Chile and known for producing deep, velvety, dark red wines.
HOW TO PRONOUNCE?
WHERE DOES IT COMES FROM?
The name “Carmenere” originates from the French word for crimson (carmin) which refers to the beautiful deep red colour of the vine leaves in autumn.
Although it is often thought to be originally coming from Chile, Carmenere is actually originally from the Bordeaux region of France.
The grape had pretty much disappeared from France when philoxera (a worm that kills vines) hit French vineyards.
It wasn’t until mid the mid 1990’s that it was rediscovered in Chile. Due to its resemblance to Merlot, it had been mistaken for Merlot and had been planted among Merlot vines.
In 1998, it was recognised as a distinct variety and has gone on to become Chile’s national grape variety.
WHAT DOES IT SMELL LIKE?
Carmenere, is a wonderfully aromatic grape variety. It develops aromas of raspberry, plum, green bell pepper, vanilla.
It offers more complexity on the nose than Merlot, with which it has been so long confused.
WHAT DOES IT TASTE LIKE?
Carmenere is not too dissimilar to Merlot, especially when it comes to the palate. It tends to have medium-body, and soft, light tannins. The wines also have good acidity, which makes them great food partner.
WHAT FOOD WILL IT GO WELL WITH?
With its medium-light body and soft tannins, Carmenere is a wine that is easily paired with many dishes.
In that, it is similar to Merlot, which is a wine that can be so flexible when it comes to food matching. It will work well with meat dishes, if you don’t choose something too powerful. And it can also work very well with more delicate dishes including vegetarian casseroles, pies and tarts.
So the list of dishes is potentially a long one, but think: duck dishes, roast lamb, lean beef cuts, or Mediterranean chicken tray bake. Equally, you could go for lentil soup, cheese and vegetable tart, or a mixed vegetable pizza.
If you like chocolate desserts, this wine could be a beautiful wine match too. Some Carmenere develop aromas of cocoa, and the soft tannins work well with chocolate.
WHERE ARE THE BEST REGIONS FOR CARMENERE?
In general, it is in Chile that Carménère works best: this grape variety is now the most renowned in the country.
You can choose a Carmenere from Chile in confidence, but if you want something outstanding, look out for Carmenere from Colchagua (especially Apalta), Aconcagua valley, Alto Cachapoal and Maipo which are the best sub regions for Carmenere.
Finally, and perhaps slightly surprisingly for some, China has also fairly large plantings of Carmenere. You may struggle to find Chinese Carmenere on the shelves of your local wine merchant. But maybe something to try if you visit China.
BEST CARMENERE WINES: 5 TO TRY
- François Lurton : Hacienda Araucano Reserva Carmenere, Chile
- De Martino, Estate Carmenere, Chile 2015
- Montes wines : Purple Angel Carmenere, Chile
- Inama, Carmenere Piu, Italy
- Errázuriz Kai Carmenere, Chile