Carmenère is considered to be part of the original six red grapes of Bordeaux. It has origins in the Médoc, as well as in the Graves region. Now it is rarely found in France, instead the vast majority of Carmenère is produced in Chile.
A Case of Mistaken Identity
In the late 19th century phylloxera (a serious insect pest feeding on the vine) destroyed most of the vineyards in Europe, most notably in France, and in particular affecting the Carmenère grapevines. Because of this, for many years this grape was thought to be extinct. However, in the late 1990s in Chile, it was discovered that what was thought to be Merlot, was actually Carmenère! Due to their similar appearance, cuttings of Carmenère that had been taken over from Bordeaux during the 19th century were confused for Merlot vines and so the result was fields mixed with Merlot and Carmenère. Finally in 1998 the two varieties were officially recognised and now vineyards are planted with the two grapes separated.
Cuttings were taken from Bordeaux to many places during the 19th century, so who knows where else this grape could be hiding?!
Carmenère has low acidity which gives it really sweet tasting fruit, and when ripe it has blackberry, plum and spicy flavours, along with a good addition of savoury flavours such as celery and meat. It goes well with beef, as well as cold meats and blue cheese.
- The name Carmenère originates from the French word for crimson (carmin) and refers to the crimson colour of the leaves before fall.
- Carmenère has also been established in small amounts in New Zealand. DNA testing proved that plantings of Cabernet Franc in the Matakana region were in fact Carmenère!
- Carmenère is also known as Grande Vidure, although the current European Union regulations prohibit Chilean imports under this name into the European Union.