Carmenére wines

A selection of wines made with the wonderful Carménere grape variety.

Mostly made in Chile this varietal was thought for many years to be a full bodied Merlot until a wily old Frenchman who was touring Chile remarked to the shocked Chilean winemaker of Carmen that his Merlot was certainly not Merlot!

An investigation followed and the DNA structure of the wine revealed that this elderly gentleman was correct and the grapes were in fact Carmenére and not Merlot at all!

It was his keen eye that revealed this fact as he remarked that the leaves were not the same as Merlot leaves. If you put the two leave side by side you would find it very difficult to tell the difference and yet this old French winemaker had worked with the Merlot grape for his whole life and he instinctively knew it wasn't right.

Few grapes have a story like that of the humble Carmenere. It’s one of initially modest riches, to utter rags, to more than modest riches, and with an awkward case of identity theft thrown in for good measure.

Carmenere originally comprised one part of the traditional Bordelais blend. It’s unknown as to whether it was ever as widely planted as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, yet nonetheless for maybe a hundred years it served an important role in the blend of many a Chateau’s wine. Then one day, in 1867, a grapevine pest called Phylloxera descended on Europe, and wiped out much of the continent’s vineyard stock in a matter of years. Vines effectively rotted where they grew, whole communities were made destitute and centuries of wine culture put on hold – and sometimes lost altogether – until a solution to the pestilence could be found.

When at last it was (in the form of the now ubiquitous tactic of grafting vine cultivars onto Phylloxera resistant American rootstock) and replanting commenced, Carmenere appeared to be forgotten. Today, no one can quite account for its relegation to the ampelographical bin, but in Bordeaux it was overlooked by vignerons in favour of greater plantings of the aforementioned famous trio.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the up and coming winemakers of South America (mostly Chile) were busy modelling their own enterprises on the prestigious and commercially successful Chateaux of Bordeaux. This meant that they too planted acres of Merlot and Cabernet, and in time the vines thrived in the Chilean viticultural climate (one endowed with plenty of cool sunshine, and protected largely by isolation from the scourge of Phylloxera). The Chilean wine industry as a whole soon proved to be remarkably successful, and over the next one hundred years the industry gradually garnered a reputation for producing exquisite, expressive and often plentiful volumes of wine at prices that were much more tasteful than those of Europe. Little did they know that their champion grape, Merlot, was not in fact Merlot at all, but rather our old friend in disguise: Carmenere.

DNA testing undertaken in the 1990s by ampelographers from the University of Montpellier proved this definitively, and it was with a rather sheepish grin that the Chilean winemakers began to re-label their wines as single varietal Carmenere. Chilean wine law allows for wines labelled simply as Carmenere to comprise up to 15% of another grape, and it is sometimes practice to blend it with another Bordelais variety, typically Petit Verdot or Cabernet (although sometimes Syrah) to beef up the spicy, peppery side of its flavour profile. Yet despite this interference it is far and away the country’s most planted grape, and Chile has effectively claimed it as its own. It has made a quiet return to France and is now grown in small quantities in the area surrounding its old Bordeaux hunting grounds, and can also be found in small pockets in northern Italy (where, unbelievably, it was mistakenly identified not as Merlot but rather as Cabernet Franc!). Beyond Europe, there are small outposts in Australia and New Zealand, with more planting set to continue.

We’re big fans of Carmenere at Wineman, principally because it produces wines of great depth and good structure, and often at a very reasonable price point. Often the wines have a rich fruit profile, alongside a somewhat tell-tale green, herbaceous note, similar to that sometimes found in the red wines of the Loire Valley (made principally from Cabernet Franc). Such ‘green’ notes are a result of a group of chemicals known as pyrazines that occur in differing concentrations between grape varieties (Sauvignon Blanc can naturally contain rather a lot, you will be unsurprised to hear) and can lend a certain moreishness to a wine, as well as imparting a sense of freshness. One of our favourite Carmeneres that we sell at Wineman is the Perez Cruz Carmenere Limited Edition (from Chile of course) which in terms of purity and richness of fruit and tannin can knock many a Bordelais wine for twice the price out of the water. It has a palate of plums, redcurrants and damsons, with a spicy, toasty note from sixteen months in French oak barrels and it boasts a long and refreshing acidity. It’s an excellent food wine, and should be served as an accompaniment to equally fine foods, perhaps with roast pork for Sunday lunch, lamb chops with mint (that green note would match very well indeed) or even a Côte de boeuf.

Carmenere has come a long way from the days of Phylloxera. It’s surely a testament to the quality of its wines that it fought back from the brink despite its mistaken identity. We look forward to trying more wines from this variety in the future, but in the meantime are pleased to be able to offer you a quality selection at a range of prices.

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Carmenére wines

A selection of wines made with the wonderful Carménere grape variety.

Mostly made in Chile this varietal was thought for many years to be a full bodied Merlot until a wily old Frenchman who was touring Chile remarked to the shocked Chilean winemaker of Carmen that his Merlot was certainly not Merlot!

An investigation followed and the DNA structure of the wine revealed that this elderly gentleman was correct and the grapes were in fact Carmenére and not Merlot at all!

It was his keen eye that revealed this fact as he remarked that the leaves were not the same as Merlot leaves. If you put the two leave side by side you would find it very difficult to tell the difference and yet this old French winemaker had worked with the Merlot grape for his whole life and he instinctively knew it wasn't right.

Few grapes have a story like that of the humble Carmenere. It’s one of initially modest riches, to utter rags, to more than modest riches, and with an awkward case of identity theft thrown in for good measure.

Carmenere originally comprised one part of the traditional Bordelais blend. It’s unknown as to whether it was ever as widely planted as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Cabernet Franc, yet nonetheless for maybe a hundred years it served an important role in the blend of many a Chateau’s wine. Then one day, in 1867, a grapevine pest called Phylloxera descended on Europe, and wiped out much of the continent’s vineyard stock in a matter of years. Vines effectively rotted where they grew, whole communities were made destitute and centuries of wine culture put on hold – and sometimes lost altogether – until a solution to the pestilence could be found.

When at last it was (in the form of the now ubiquitous tactic of grafting vine cultivars onto Phylloxera resistant American rootstock) and replanting commenced, Carmenere appeared to be forgotten. Today, no one can quite account for its relegation to the ampelographical bin, but in Bordeaux it was overlooked by vignerons in favour of greater plantings of the aforementioned famous trio.

Meanwhile, on the other side of the world, the up and coming winemakers of South America (mostly Chile) were busy modelling their own enterprises on the prestigious and commercially successful Chateaux of Bordeaux. This meant that they too planted acres of Merlot and Cabernet, and in time the vines thrived in the Chilean viticultural climate (one endowed with plenty of cool sunshine, and protected largely by isolation from the scourge of Phylloxera). The Chilean wine industry as a whole soon proved to be remarkably successful, and over the next one hundred years the industry gradually garnered a reputation for producing exquisite, expressive and often plentiful volumes of wine at prices that were much more tasteful than those of Europe. Little did they know that their champion grape, Merlot, was not in fact Merlot at all, but rather our old friend in disguise: Carmenere.

DNA testing undertaken in the 1990s by ampelographers from the University of Montpellier proved this definitively, and it was with a rather sheepish grin that the Chilean winemakers began to re-label their wines as single varietal Carmenere. Chilean wine law allows for wines labelled simply as Carmenere to comprise up to 15% of another grape, and it is sometimes practice to blend it with another Bordelais variety, typically Petit Verdot or Cabernet (although sometimes Syrah) to beef up the spicy, peppery side of its flavour profile. Yet despite this interference it is far and away the country’s most planted grape, and Chile has effectively claimed it as its own. It has made a quiet return to France and is now grown in small quantities in the area surrounding its old Bordeaux hunting grounds, and can also be found in small pockets in northern Italy (where, unbelievably, it was mistakenly identified not as Merlot but rather as Cabernet Franc!). Beyond Europe, there are small outposts in Australia and New Zealand, with more planting set to continue.

We’re big fans of Carmenere at Wineman, principally because it produces wines of great depth and good structure, and often at a very reasonable price point. Often the wines have a rich fruit profile, alongside a somewhat tell-tale green, herbaceous note, similar to that sometimes found in the red wines of the Loire Valley (made principally from Cabernet Franc). Such ‘green’ notes are a result of a group of chemicals known as pyrazines that occur in differing concentrations between grape varieties (Sauvignon Blanc can naturally contain rather a lot, you will be unsurprised to hear) and can lend a certain moreishness to a wine, as well as imparting a sense of freshness. One of our favourite Carmeneres that we sell at Wineman is the Perez Cruz Carmenere Limited Edition (from Chile of course) which in terms of purity and richness of fruit and tannin can knock many a Bordelais wine for twice the price out of the water. It has a palate of plums, redcurrants and damsons, with a spicy, toasty note from sixteen months in French oak barrels and it boasts a long and refreshing acidity. It’s an excellent food wine, and should be served as an accompaniment to equally fine foods, perhaps with roast pork for Sunday lunch, lamb chops with mint (that green note would match very well indeed) or even a Côte de boeuf.

Carmenere has come a long way from the days of Phylloxera. It’s surely a testament to the quality of its wines that it fought back from the brink despite its mistaken identity. We look forward to trying more wines from this variety in the future, but in the meantime are pleased to be able to offer you a quality selection at a range of prices.

Sort by:
Showing 1 to 4 of 4
view: per page
Sort by:
Showing 1 to 4 of 4
view: per page