What is Carmenere wine? It is a red wine from a grape variety known as the grandfather of Bordeaux, Carménère.
This wine has a deep red color from the grape’s dark skin and tastes wise, you can find smoky, spicy, and savory notes when drinking this wine. Typically, you can find a dominance of green pepper on its notes, making it quite spicy and unique.
Today, Carmenere is among the robust kinds of red wines, and it is usually used for blending but is also consumed alone if preferred.
History of Carmenere Wine
It was long believed that the red grape known as Carmenere, which is native to the region of Bordeaux in France, had become extinct.
That was because after being active for many years, Carmenere disappeared without a trace. The reason was a disease involving Phylloxera (pests) that occurred in the 19th century that totally wiped out the entirety of Carmenere vines.
However, due to some French immigrants, Carmenere ended up in the marvelous land of Chile. Those French people bring a few vines to transplant to their new land, and it is there when they planted Carmenere in a wine valley in Chile.
However, they didn’t exactly know that it was Carmenere and mistook it for Merlot. Only in 1994 when researchers took the DNA of the grape, that they finally knew that it was the supposed to be extinct grape, Carmenere.
Three Notable Chilean Valleys of Carmenere
Although Carmenere originated in Bordeaux, it is almost non-existent in France. Most Carmenere vineyards now can be seen in Chile where over 90% of its population is residing. This grape variety is widely spread across Chilean valleys and below are the nost
Carmenere wines from the Cachapoal Valley typically feature a harmony of sweet and tart cherry fruit alongside the distinctive green peppercorn aroma. High levels of acidity in the wines produced there suggest they may age well.
Most commercially available carmenere nowadays is produced in Colchagua Valley. The majority of wines will have smells reminiscent of raspberry sauce and green peppercorn. However, the coastal areas and the Andean foothills have very different architectural styles.
Wines from Peumo are usually considered amongst the finest carmenere. This area has been producing wine for centuries in Chile.
Carmenere wines from this region tend to be more robust and opulent, with notes of candied red berries and higher alcohol levels. The Peumo carmenere wines have been proven to age well for up to 12 years.
Carmenere Wine Taste and Flavor Profile
Carmenere is a type of grape that belongs to the Cabernet species and bears the peculiar green pepper flavor that comes from pyrazine chemicals that Cabernet grapes have.
When the fruits used to make Carmenere are harvested before they are fully mature, this scent can become intolerably robust and astringent. When the grapes have reached their full maturity, it becomes softer, and this opens the door for more notes of fruit to come through.
As for its fruit notes, you can get a hint of black cherries, plums, and raspberries during the tasting. The wine tends to be tart because of its fruit flavors, but some Carmenere wines are more savory than fruity because of the dominance of green bell peppers and peppercorns.
How Is Carmenere Wine Made?
Generally, Carmenere is made the same way as other wines. The grapes are harvested and then pressed to extract the juice. But for Carmenere, the skin is added because this makes the deep color of the wine. Next, the juice is fermented with yeast, which turns the grapes’ sugar into alcohol.
During fermentation, winemakers tend to add Malolactic culture to balance the Carmenere’s green bell pepper notes. They also constantly check the Brix Levels to ensure the fermentation goes well.
After the fermentation, the Carmenere winemaking process is mostly done. All that’s left is to age, rack the fermented wine, and filter it before bottling. But, there are also some wineries that age the wine more on oak barrels to give it a more robust flavor and aroma.
How to Best Enjoy Carmenere Wine
The wine’s temperature has a major effect on the flavor, and drinking it too warm might ruin the experience.
Though the ideal serving temperature for wine varies by variety, it is generally accepted that bottles should be chilled before being opened. And as for Carmenere wine, the ideal temperature is between 16-18°C to give you the best drinking sensation.
Carmenere is a versatile wine that goes well with a wide variety of foods because it is not as robust as other types of wine.
You can pair this with almost any meat dish, from pork to beef. With its spicy kick, Carmenere wine is perfect with savory and roasted meats. And due to its low tannin, it also pairs well with less-fat dishes, like chicken in mole sauce and tuna steak.
Like the majority of red wines, Note Carmenere is not the best choice for very light foods because the wine’s personality can easily overshadow the dish.
On the other hand, the wine is renowned for its adaptability; because of its moderate sweetness, some people consider it to be an appropriate red, even for seafood.
The Bordeaux glass is the best glassware to use when drinking Carmenere wine. It stands taller than any other type of red wine glass and is distinguished by its lengthy stem and vast bowl.
Because of the glass’s height, the alcohol in the wine can evaporate before it reaches the nose. And because of this, more oxygen goes to the wine, reducing the harshness of the tannins responsible for the wine’s bitter aftertaste.
Moreover, a Bordeaux glass’s shape helps the Carmenere wine reach the back of the tongue, where it can be enjoyed to the fullest extent of its flavor without as much astringency.
Inky - Opaque
● Green bell pepper
● Black cherry
Carmenere and Merlot
Both Merlot and Carmenere can produce fruity, somewhat tannic wines. However, Merlot is known for its plusher, black stone fruit characteristics, while Carmenere leans more toward red fruit. Carmenere is spicier than Merlot, with overtones of bell pepper, and it has a stronger herbal flavor than Merlot.
Carmenere and Malbec
Malbec has a silky texture with an aroma reminiscent of rich florals. Its fruitiness is reminiscent of ripe blackberries and plums.
Unlike Carmenere, Malbec does not possess bell pepper notes, which distinguishes Carmenere. However, malbec can contain coffee and cocoa notes from the wood.
Fun Fact: The most distinct characteristic of Carmenere over the other two is its leaf. Unlike Merlot and Malbec, its leaves become crimson before fall starts.
Best Chilean Carmenere Wine Brands
The image above shows five of the best brands of Chilean Carmenere wine. Although there are numerous producers of this wine, these five are among the ones with the best ratings and reviews in terms of their taste, body, and age.
They also came from the best valleys in Chile, so you can put faith in them to give you the best Carmenere experience.
Check the table below for the details:
$65 - $150
$50 - $100
$70 - $120
$70 - $100
Carmín de Peumo
Concha y Toro
$120 - $200
There are also inexpensive Carmenere wines that range from $10 to $20 per bottle, but it differs in terms of total feel and taste from the ones mentioned above. If you want to experience the best Carmenere wine, don’t be afraid to spend a little more.
Tips on Buying Carmenere Wine
Carmenere wines vary in alcohol content. Although the average most wines have is 10% to 13% ABV, you can find Carmenere wines with 15% ABV. Choosing bottles with lower alcohol levels is great if you want to drink them as it is. But you can also choose stronger ones for blending.
When purchasing Carmenere at a lower price, you must pay attention to the year. There is a tendency for more reasonably priced Carmenere wines to take on a bitter-like character. First-class Carmenere wines, on the other hand, remain consistent all throughout.
The region or valley where the grapes for your wine are grown is a piece of essential information to know when choosing wines. There are places where the best quality grapes are produced, and as for Carmenere, Chilean valleys are the best.
Like the Cachapoal and Colchagua Valleys, they produce rich and deep-colored wines that are among the best in the world. So, it is essential to check the label first when buying a bottle of wine.
Growing in Chile had a significant effect on what is Carmenere wine today and how it gained the appreciation it deserves.
Today, Carmenere is considered among the best-tasting red wine variety in the world. With its profound flavor and aroma, Carmenere will take you on a high-level wine experience.