What is the Carménère grape and how did the grape evolve?
Carménère, aka "the lost grape of Bordeaux," is a member of the Cabernet family and was
also used as a blending grape, much like Petit Verdot. Carménère was widely grown and recognized in the Médoc region of Bordeaux prior to the onset of Phylloxera in the mid-19th century. The grape had very little resistance to the disease and was wiped out in Bordeaux. The vines had been grafted onto resistant rootstock but was not replanted in Bordeaux. The rootstock was somehow acquired by South American winemakers, but the story is different from different sources… Some say the varietal was smuggled out of France, others say it was imported in Cab and Merlot clippings! In 1994, French professor of Oenology Jean-Michel Boursiquot did DNA testing and determined that what was being thought of as Merlot grapes were actually the lost Carménère grape. The grape had been practically extinct up until that time. Shortly after that, the Chiliean government came to recognize Carménère as its own varietal.
Today we enjoy the wonderful wines of Carménère grapes from Chile and some parts of Italy as well.
The Carménère grape needs a long growing season, and it's one of the darkest purple of the red grape varietals. The taste profile of the wine is dark berry, with a spicy, earthy top note, very little tannins and a lingering chocolate/mocha finish. The profile is similar to Merlot but very different in its own right. The wine pairs well with red meats and spicy foods like Indian curry.
We have two new Direct to You Chilean Carménère wines to check out, Casas del Bosques and Caliterra Reserva. Both wines are fantastic value and quality!
Lynn Aubrey, ABC Fine Wine & Spirit wine consultant, Clermont
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