Chile is doing a lot of things well these days, but I am drawn to the dark drama of Carménère time and time again.
Originally believed to be French Merlot, Carménère has been grown in Chile since the 1800’s. Grown side by side in many vineyards, once the difference between the two was officially recognized in 1996, it’s been estimated that between 60 and 90 percent of those “Merlot” vineyards were actually Carménère.
Like Merlot, Carménère has lower acidity than most of the other red Bordeaux grapes, highlighting a lush, soft fruit character. But when it’s not fully ripe, or if there has been too much rain, the grapes tend to show sharp green pepper notes. It loves oak, which gives structure to its lushness. It has also found great success in blends with other grapes, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon.
Top Seven Characteristics of Carménère
1. Blackcurrant/ripe plum/black cherry
3. Savoury notes: smoke, leather, meat, or even soy sauce.
4. Tobacco, chocolate, or coffee
5. Green pepper notes, or celery, when not ripe
6. Toast or vanilla from oak treatment
7. Rich, lush mouthfeel, though it’s usually a medium-weight wine