Carménère is originally from Bordeaux and Southwest France, but it was taken to the New World, specifically Chile, by French immigrants in the mid 1800s. It has proven to be far better suited to its new South American home because of the longer and warmer growing season there.
Mistaken for decades in Chile for Merlot, Carménère produces deeply coloured (often purple) wines with strong tannic structure. They can be quite herbaceous if the yields are not well managed and if they are picked before being phenolically ripe as often happens in Chile. One of its parents is Cabernet Franc and it’s also a half-sibling to Cabernet Sauvignon as well as Merlot. It’s no wonder it’s often mistaken for one or several of these.
Growers stopped planting it in Bordeaux in the late 1870s after phylloxera because it couldn’t be counted on; it had poor fruit set and the yields were unreliable. Hardly any remains in Bordeaux – there are only 21 ha in Paulliac.
The wines produced from Carménère have a characteristic tomato vine aroma and flavour along with green pepper, red berry, black pepper and if they are fully ripe, blackberry and blueberry with chocolate, soy sauce and coffee.
This wine is from the hills of Colchagua in Chile’s Central Valley region, outside of Santiago. It’s clear and bright, opaque purple and has deep legs.
On the nose, it’s clean and developing with medium plus intensity and aromas of damson plum, cassis, blackberry, violets, light leather and vine, tobacco and clove.
The palate is dry with medium plus acidity, medium plus grippy tannins, medium plus alcohol and body. Flavours of blackberry, cedar, plum, cocoa, purple flowers and leather show through to the medium plus finish.
This wine is WSET Very Good – fruity with concentration yet balanced with solid complexity and a strong finish. Drink now; has potential to age because of the promise of future development supported by the tannic and acidic structure. At only C$22, this is a good deal. We enjoyed it with barbecued ribs and salad.