Carmenere in Chile and the World

Known as one of the most difficult grapes to reach ripeness, the history of Carménère issomething special.Originally from France, Carménère suffered from the effects of the plague that affectedEurope between 1860–1870, and which led people to believe that the variety haddisappeared forever. However, 10 years before phylloxera arrived in Europe, there was ashipment of some of these vines to the American continent, specifically Chile, where thanksto its climactic and geographic conditions, the variety managed to survive.

But the variety, whose name comes from the word carmine, for the intense red color of its leaves, was sold as “Chilean Merlot,” as many had thought that Merlot had simply adapted to the conditions of Chile. 

It was on 24 November 1994 that the history takes a turn, when French ampelographer Jean Michel Boursiquot was visiting vineyards that were presented as Merlot, and whose leaves did not correspond to the characteristics of the variety, leading him to correctly identify the Carménère. The moment Boursiquot uttered these words, he changed Chile’s winemaking forever: “This isn’t Merlot; it’s Carménère”.”.

At the time, no one understood what the leaf expert was referring to, and not a few were led to very old history books in order to understand what the Carménère variety was. 

From that day forward, the work of identifying and marking the plants began, with the first steps toward learning how to process this variety according to its ripe characteristics, as there were no winemakers alive who had previously worked with the variety.

Carménère today

The Carménère variety today is recognized throughout the world as Chile’s specialty, thanks to its unique characteristics. It’s a variety that that belongs to the Cabernet Sauvignon family, and is a slower ripener, making it practically the last variety to be harvested during the harvest season.

How to pair it better

The recommendation for Carménère is to pair it with all kinds of red or white meat with vegetables, particularly well-seasoned dishes that help draw out the flavors of the wine. It’s best served between 16–18ºC.