Uruguay has its tannat, Argentina its malbec and Chile its carménère. Little known, this Bordeaux grape variety, which has just been put back on the top of the podium in recent years, is gaining in popularity and is taking its place among Chile's great wines. Let's admit that it has everything to please: fruit, structure, a touch of roundness and a story from a good detective novel.
It is a detective novel that can be heard in every bodega in Chile. In 1991, a French oenologist, near Santiago de Chile, took a closer look at some unique vines, located in the middle of a plot of Merlot. The grapes as well as the leaves are different, the maturity is longer..... A doubt settles: this grape variety looks like Merlot, but it is probably not Merlot.
In the middle of the Merlot, Carménère takes out its pin from the wine game
The enigma is posed and it will take 3 years to solve it: it is Carménère, an old Bordeaux grape variety that has been forgotten for nearly a century. What are Carménère's feet doing in the middle of Chilean vineyards? The crux of the story is Phylloxera, the merciless parasites that ravaged the world's vineyards at the beginning of the 20th century, carrying with them many grape varieties. Carmenère was thought to have disappeared, but in Chile, it did resist the invader.
Chile's top-of-the-range vines highlight Carménère
Chile's vines proudly rise to the Andean sky, tall and proud, and produce grapes for ultra-modern cellars. Huge buildings that use gravity, semi-buried cellars that keep a natural freshness, amphoras, concrete eggs and state-of-the-art tanks. In these ultra-equipped and ultra-reflective cellars, the ancient Carménère grape variety is the king. After its rediscovery, the estates identified it, separated it, vinified it separately before proudly propelling it to the forefront of the Chilean scene. The wines are colourful, round, gouleyants with a great aromatic expression favouring black fruits. Depending on the vinification method, they have more or less acidity, chocolate flavours, spicy notes, pepper, green pepper and can offer a very high aromatic complexity.
Suggestion: 100% Carmenère from the Max Réserva range of the Errazuritz estate in the Aconcagua valley. An unbeatable quality/price ratio for a great Carménère. With an alcoholic degree of 14%, this great red wine has a dense and concentrated palate, while remaining elegant and sweet.
Tasting at the Errazuritz estate, Los Andes, Chile
Which pairings with the great Chilean wines 100% Carménère?
The red wines of Carménère are generally powerful and round. The food and wine pairing with a Carménère wine is therefore not always obvious. Slightly spicy dishes will be able to support the power of Carménère wines, red meats are a good base for food and wine pairing and grilled meats generally go well with concentrated and dense wines.
As for those who wish to put a little lightness and originality on the plate while remaining in the summer theme, Mediterranean salads, delicately spiced and spicy, are perfect with Carménère. They bring freshness, a touch of acidity, respect the roundness and support the power of the wine.
To your taste buds, mucho gusto!
Manon Mouly (for Les Grappes)