Taste: A velvet texture, accompanied by black fruit flavors of blackberry, black cherry and plum, with spicy notes of clove and black pepper giving it a savory character.
Body: Medium to full
Age: Most should be enjoyed within a few years, but the better wines age well gaining complexity.
Aka: Occasionally goes under its old Bordeaux name of Grand Vidure.
Carmenère (kar-mhen-NEH-ree) is a French grape variety, from Bordeaux, which was almost annihilated by a Phylloxera plague (an insect pest) in the second half of the 19th century. However, wine growers in Chile had imported vines from France before the plague and for most of the 20th century they were thought to be a clone of Merlot, with which Carmenère shares many characteristics.
It is only since 1998 in Chile that wines can officially be labeled Carmenère – prior to that many wines described as Merlot were actually Carmenère. Now that Chile has correctly identified Carmenère, it has made the grape its own. The country is now almost the only source of wines made from this good quality grape. As a result of this renewed interest, Carmenère is now thriving and fast gaining a reputation, both in Chile and abroad, as an up-and-coming grape variety.
It is a late ripening grape and needs a long growing season, making it very suitable in its adopted South American home. Carmenère wines are medium to full bodied with high levels of tannin and relatively low acidity. Like Merlot, it has a velvet texture accompanied by black fruit flavors of blackberry, black cherry and plum, with spicy notes of clove and black pepper giving it a savory character. If the grapes are not fully ripe it can display more pungent vegetal notes, such as green pepper.
Carmenère can be deliciously lush and fruity, and very elegant. It makes a lovely varietal wine and, given its Bordeaux heritage, it is no surprise that it blends exceptionally well with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. It has much to recommend it.
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