For those who don’t have today - International Carmenère Day – marked in their unused 2020 calendars, we’re taking a closer look at a grape that has only recently begun to gain international recognition.
You might know that Carmenère is an old Bordeaux variety. You might also know that it’s widely planted in Chile. But did you know that's is also found in China, with some production in Canada's cooler regions such as British Columbia?
Chile, though, is where it's made its home, with the majority of production in the Central Valley, which includes the famous wine-producing regions of Maipo, Colchagua and Rapel. Up until 1994, many of the Carmenère plantings were commonly mistaken for the early-ripening Merlot. This meant that grapes were often picked too early, creating grassy, vegetal wines. Fortunately, with its new sense of identity, Chilean winemakers have discovered that the best Carmenère wines are made from grapes that have been picked at their optimum ripeness, several weeks after Merlot grapes have been taken off the vine.
Wine drinkers love Carmenère for its plum, cocoa and coffee notes. It’s low in tannin but high in acidity, which means that it can be paired with a variety of dishes including roast pork and lamb.
When producing a single-varietal wine, Chilean winemakers are permitted to blend up to 15% of other grape varieties into it. They’ve found that Syrah in particular adds an amazing lift to the wine. IWSC judges loved Silver medal-winner Viña Chocalán’s Gran Reserva Origen Carmenère 2018 which contains 10% Syrah and 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, creating a wine with ‘excellent fruitful purity, bursting with cassis and cherry’.
Scroll down to discover six more award-winning Carmenères from IWSC 2020.
Black Hills Estate Winery
Distinctive varietal richness on the nose and bursting with ripe fruit structure and vibrant acidity. Cool and bright with an elegant tannic backbone, strong green flavours leading to black fruit ripeness and a mineral-rich core. Balanced and youthful. Canada, 12.6% n/a in UK
Gran Reserva Origen Carmenère 2018
A tantalising nose of exhilirating spearmint, bright fruits, and a spiced cinnamon edge. Displaying excellent fruitful purity, it bursts with cassis and dark cherry. Big, beautiful and bold. Chile, 14% RRP £13 enquire at Drinks & Co
Reserva Carmenere 2019
Juicy and concentrated, overflowing with cherry and blackberries. There are notes of refreshing green pepper, and a graphite undertone. A charming Carménère with a characterful ground coffee finish. Chile, 13.5% Enquire at Sandhams Wine Merchants
Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Carmenere 2018
Concha y Toro
A rich, blackberry compote nose opens to a complex palate of mulberry, blackcurrant and developed savoury and tar characteristics. Very well-made, this is a powerful yet refined wine. Chile, 13.5% n/a in UK
De Gras Reserva Carmenere 2019
Distinctive concentrated nose with medicinal notes, dark fruits, cassis, coffee and florals. Beautifully delicate tannin and well-integrated oak with a lightly herbal element too. The palate is juicy, sweet and ripe. Chile, 13.5% RRP £9 from Waitrose Cellar
Reserva Carmenère 2019
A spoon of blueberry compote, dusted with sweet cinnamon, and characterful cardamom. Beautifully balanced, a powerful, evolved example of a Carménère. Chile, 14% n/a in UK