Uruguay has its tannat, Argentina its malbec and Chile its carménère. Little known, this Bordeaux grape variety, which has been rightly put back on the top of the podium in recent years, is meeting a real craze and is taking its place among the great Chilean wines. Let's admit that it has everything to please: fruit, structure, a touch of roundness and a story drawn from a good detective novel.
It's a detective novel that you can hear in every bodega in Chile. In 1991, a French oenologist, near Santiago de Chile, took a closer look at some unusual vines in the middle of a plot of Merlot. Grapes and leaves are different, maturity is longer .... A doubt arises: this grape variety looks like Merlot, but it is probably not Merlot.
In the middle of the Merlot, the Carménère is a great wine.
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 the Carménère vines doing in the middle of the 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, taking many grape varieties with them. The Carmenera was thought to have disappeared, but in Chile it has resisted the invader.
Chile's top-of-the-range vines highlight Carménère
The vines of Chile proudly soar towards the Andean sky, tall and proud, and produce grapes for ultra-modern wineries. Huge buildings that use gravity, semi-buried cellars that maintain a natural freshness, amphoras, concrete eggs and state-of-the-art vats. In these ultra-equipped and ultra-reflective cellars, the ancient Carménère grape variety is king. After its rediscovery, the wineries identified it, separated it, vinified it separately before proudly propelling it to the forefront of the Chilean scene. The wines are colourful, round and easy to drink, with a great aromatic expression that favours black fruits. Depending on the winemaking method, they have more or less acidity, chocolate flavours, spicy notes, pepper, green pepper and can offer a very great aromatic complexity.
Suggestion: the 100% Carménère of the Max Réserva range from the Errazuritz estate in the Aconcagua valley. An unbeatable quality/price ratio for a great Carménère. With an alcohol content of 14%, this great red wine is dense and concentrated on the palate, while remaining elegant and smooth.
Tasting at the Errazuritz Estate, Los Andes, Chile
How to pair with the great 100% Carménère Chilean wines?
Carménère red wines are generally powerful and round. The food and wine pairing with a Carménère wine is therefore not always obvious. A slightly spicy dish will 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 within the summer theme, Mediterranean salads, delicately spicy and spicy, go perfectly 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)