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  • Writer's pictureNelly Ward

Carménère - the Chilean Jewel

Colchagua, Chile

Nestled between the spectacular Andes Mountains and the Pacific Ocean, Chile has emerged as a key player in the world of wine, with one grape variety in particular standing out - Carménère. Often referred to as Chile's signature grape, Carménère has a fascinating history and a distinctive flavor profile that sets it apart.

Carmenere in Chile

Carménère's journey is one of rediscovery. Originally from Bordeaux, France, this grape variety was thought to have been lost during the Phylloxera epidemic that devastated European vineyards in the 19th century. However, in a surprising twist of fate, it was found thriving in Chile's vineyards, masquerading as Merlot for decades until the DNA testing confirmed its identity in the 90s. (Don't ask me how it could have ever passed for Merlot, as to me the differences are so profound in the tasting profile and in the grape growing characteristics!).

Chile's diverse terroir plays a crucial role in shaping the character of Carménère wines. The grape thrives in the country's distinct microclimates, where warm days and cool nights contribute to optimal ripening conditions. The well-drained soils, combined with ample sunlight and consistent temperatures, result in wines that express the unique Chilean terroir.

Colchagua, Chile

What sets Chilean Carménère apart is its captivating flavor profile. Expect a symphony of dark fruit flavors such as blackberry and plum, intertwined with subtle notes of green pepper, tobacco, and chocolate. The wine's velvety texture and smooth tannins make it a delight to savor, while its vibrant acidity adds a refreshing touch.

Concha y Toro Carmenere, Chile

As Chilean winemakers continue to explore Carménère's potential, we see a spectrum of expressions, from approachable everyday wines to complex, age-worthy bottles. Whether unoaked or aged in premium barrels, each winery puts its unique stamp on this enigmatic grape, offering wine enthusiasts a diverse array of choices and making it an ideal companion for a wide range of dishes.

Chilean Carménère stands as a testament to the country's winemaking prowess and its ability to revive this lost grape variety. From its mysterious past to the unique flavors it imparts, Carménère has found a new home in Chile, captivating palates around the world. So, the next time you uncork a bottle of Chilean Carménère, you're not just tasting wine; you're sipping a piece of Chilean winemaking history!


© All images on this page are subject to copyright. 2023 Nelly Ward

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