Updated on December 13, 2022
Uruguay has its Tannat, Argentina its Malbec and Chile its Carménère. Little known, this Bordeaux grape variety has been put back on the top of the podium these last few years, and has become very popular, taking its place in the Chilean grands crus. Let's admit that it has everything to please: fruit, structure, a touch of roundness and a story from a good detective story.
It is a detective story that one hears in all the wineries of Chile. In 1991, a French oenologist, near Santiago de Chile, took a closer look at some vines unlike any other, located in the middle of a Merlot plot. The grapes as well as the leaves are different, the maturity is longer .... A doubt arises: this grape variety looks like merlot, but it is probably not merlot.
In the midst of Merlot, Carménère stands out from the crowd
The enigma is set and it will take 3 years to solve it: it's Carménère, an old Bordeaux grape variety that has been forgotten for nearly a century. So what are the Carménère vines doing in the middle of Chilean vineyards? The crux of the story is the Phylloxera, a merciless parasite that ravaged the world's vineyards at the beginning of the 20th century, taking many grape varieties with it. Carménère was thought to have disappeared, but in Chile it has resisted the invader.
Chile's high-end vineyards highlight Carménère
The vineyards of Chile The grapevines are proudly reaching into the Andean sky, tall and proud, and producing grapes for ultra-modern wineries. Huge buildings that use gravity, semi-buried cellars that keep a natural coolness, amphorae, concrete eggs and state of the art vats. In these ultra-equipped and ultra-reflective cellars, the ancient Carménère grape 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 colorful, round, easy to drink and have a great aromatic expression with a focus on black fruits. Depending on the method of vinification, they present more or less acidity, chocolate flavors, spicy notes, pepper, green bell pepper and can offer a great aromatic complexity.
Suggestion: the 100% Carménère of the Max Reserva range from the Errazuritz estate in the Aconcagua Valley. Unbeatable value for money for a great Carménère. With an alcohol content of 14%, this great red wine has a dense and concentrated mouthfeel, while remaining elegant and smooth.
Carménère red wines are generally powerful and round. The food and wine pairing with a Carménère wine is therefore not always obvious. Somewhat spicy dishes will support the power of Carménère wines, red meats are a good basis for food and wine pairing, and grilled meats usually go well with concentrated and dense wines.
For those who wish to add a little lightness and originality to their plate while remaining in the summer theme, salads can be served with the wines.Mediterranean salads, delicately spiced and spicy, are a perfect match for 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)
Les Grappes offers many activities and tastings at winegrowers' homes in all French wine-growing regions