grape is a wine grape variety originally planted in the Medoc
region of Bordeaux, France, where it was used to produce deep
red wines and occasionally used for blending purposes in the
same manner as Petit Verdot.
found in France, the world's largest area planted with this
variety is in Chile in South America, with more than 8,800
hectares (2009) cultivated in the Central Valley.
As such, Chile produces the vast majority of Carménère wines
available today and as the Chilean wine industry grows, more
experimentation is being carried out on Carmenere's potential
as a blending grape, especially with Cabernet Sauvignon.
is also grown in Italy's Eastern Veneto and Friuli-Venezia
and in smaller quantities in the California and Walla Walla
regions of the United States.
wine has a deep red color and aromas found in red fruits,
spices and berries.
The tannins are gentler and softer than those in Cabernet Sauvignon and it is a medium body wine.
Although mostly used as a blending grape, wineries do
bottle a pure varietal Carménère which, when produced
from grapes at optimal ripeness, imparts a cherry-like,
fruity flavor with smoky, spicy and earthy notes and a
deep crimson color. Its taste might also be reminiscent
of dark chocolate, tobacco, and leather. The wine is best
the most ancient European varieties, Carménère is thought
to be the antecedent of other better-known varieties; some
consider the grape to be "a long-established clone of Cabernet
Sauvignon." It is possible that the variety
name is an alias for what is actually the Vidure, a local
Bordeaux name for a Cabernet Sauvignon clone once thought
to be the grape from which all red Bordeaux varieties originated.
have also been suggestions that Carménère may be Biturica,
a vine praised in ancient Rome and also the name by which
the city of Bordeaux was known during that era.
This ancient variety originated in Iberia (modern-day Spain
and Portugal), according to Pliny the Elder; indeed, it is
currently a popular blending variety with Sangiovese in Tuscany
called "Predicato di Biturica"
grape has known origins in the Medoc region of Bordeaux, France
and was also widely planted in the Graves until the vines
were struck with oidium.
It is almost impossible to find Carménère wines in France
today, as a Phylloxera plague in 1867 nearly destroyed all
the vineyards of Europe, afflicting the Carménère grapevines
in particular such that for many years the grape was presumed
extinct. When the vineyards were replanted, growers could
not replant Carménère as it was extremely hard to find and
more difficult to grow than other grape varieties common to
region's damp, chilly spring weather gave rise to coulure,
"a condition endemic to certain vines in climates which have
marginal, sometimes cool, wet springs",
which prevented the vine's buds from flowering. Yields were
lower than other varieties and the crops were rarely healthy;
consequently wine growers chose more versatile and less coulure-susceptible
grapes when replanting the vines and Carménère planting was
being extinct, in recent years the Carménèregrape has been
discovered at Via Carmen (www.carmen.com) to be thriving in
several areas outside of France. In Chile, growers almost
inadvertently preserved the grape variety during the last
150 years, due largely to its similarity to Merlot.
of Carmenere were imported by Chilean growers from Bordeaux
during the 19th century, where they were frequently confused
with Merlot vines. They modeled their wineries after those
in France and in the 1850s cuttings from Bordeaux, which
included Carménère grape, were planted in the valleys around
to Chile's minimal rainfall during the growing season and
the protection of the country's natural boundaries, growers
produced healthier crops of Carménère and there was no spread
of phylloxera. During most of the 20th century CarmÃ©nÃ¨re
was inadvertently collected and processed together with
Merlot grapes (probably reaching up to 50% of the total
volume) giving Chilean Merlot markedly different properties
to those of Merlot produced elsewhere.
Chilean growers believed that this grape was a clone of
Merlot and was known as Merlot selection or Merlot
Peumal (after the Peumo Valley in Chile).
In 1994, Professor Jean-Michel Boursiquot
from the Montpellier's school of Oenology confirmed that
an earlier-ripening vine was Bordeaux Carménère ,
The Chilean Department of Agriculture officially recognized
Carménère as a distinct variety in 1998.
Today, Carménère grows chiefly in the Colchagua Valley,
Rapel Valley, and Maipo Province.
situation occurred in Italy when, in 1990, the Ca' del Bosco
Winery acquired what they thought was Cabernet Franc vines
from a French nursery. The growers noticed that the grapes
were different from the traditional Cabernet Franc both in
color and taste. They also noticed that the vines ripened
earlier than Cabernet Franc would
have. Other Italian wine regions also started to doubt the
origin of these vines and it was finally established to be
Carménère . Although, in Italy, the variety is grown mainly
in the northeast part of the country from Brescia to Friuli,
it has only recently been entered into Italy's national catalog
of vine varieties and thus "no district has yet requested
the authorization to use it". Therefore, the wine "cannot
be cultivated with its original name or specific vintage and
the name cannot be used to identify the wine on the label
with an IGT, DOC or a DOCG status assignment." Ca'
del Bosco Winery names the wine it produces Carmenero.
In 2007 the grape was authorised to be used in Italian DOC
wines from Veneto (Arcole, Bagnoli di Sopra, Cori Benedettine
del Padovano, Garda, Merlara, Monti Lessini, Riviera del Brento
and Vicenza), Friuli-Venezia Giulia (Collio, or Collio Goriziano)
and Sardinia (Alghero). Since
a ministerial decree of 2009, producers of Piave DOC wines
in 50 communes of the Province of Treviso, and 12 in the in
the Province of Venice have been permitted where appropriate
to specify the variety Carménère on the wine label.
France only a few hundred acres of Carménère officially exist,
although there are rumors of renewed interest among growers
has also been established in Eastern Washington's Walla Walla
Valley and in California, United States.
In the 1980s, Karen Mulander-Magoon, the co-proprietor of
Guenoc and Langtry Estates Winery, in California's Lake County,
brought the grape to the vineyard. This was a joint effort
with Louis Perre Pradier, "a French research scientist and
viticulturalist whose work involved preserving Carménère from
extinction in France." Once
the vines were quarantined and checked for diseases they were
legalized for admission into California in the 1990s, where
they were cloned and planted.
three cuttings of Carménère imported from Chile by renowned
viticultural expert Dr Richard Smart in the late 1990s. After
two years in quarantine, only one cutting survived the heat
treatment to eliminate viruses and was micro-propagated (segments
of individual buds grown on nutrient gel) and field grown
by Narromine Vine Nursery. The first vines from the nursery
were planted in 2002 by Amietta Vineyard and Winery in the
Moorabool Valley (Geelong, Victoria) who use CarmÃ©nÃ¨re in
their Angels' Share blend.
has also been established in small amounts in New Zealand.
DNA testing confirmed in 2006 that plantings of Cabernet Franc
in the Matakana region were in fact Carménère.
favors a long growing season in moderate to warm climates.
During harvest time and the winter period the vine fares poorly
if it is introduced to high levels of rain or irrigation water.
This is particularly true in poor-soil plantings where the
vine would need more water. Over-watering during this period
accentuates the herbaceous and green pepper characteristics
of the grape. The grape naturally develops high levels of
sugar before the tannins achieve ripeness. If grown in too
hot a climate the resulting wine will have a high alcohol
level and low balance.
Carménèrebuds and flowers three to seven days later than Merlot
and the yield is lower than that of the latter grape.
The Carménère leaves turn to crimson before dropping.
produced in wineries either as a single-variety wine (sometimes
called a varietal wine), or as a blend usually with Cabernet
Sauvignon, Cabernet franc and/or Merlot.
research has shown that Carménère may be distantly related
to Merlot and the similarities in appearance have linked the
two vines for centuries. Despite the similarities, there are
some noticeable differences that aid the ampelographer in
identifying the two vines. When young, Carménère leaves have
a reddish hue underneath, while the leaves of Merlot are white.
There are also slight differences in leaf shape with the central
lobe of Merlot leaves being longer. Merlot ripens two to three
weeks earlier than Carménère. In
cases where the vineyards are interspersed with both varieties,
the time of harvest is paramount in determining the character
of the resulting blends. If Merlot grapes are picked when
Carménère is fully ripe, they will be overripe and impart
a "jammy" character. If the grapes are picked earlier when
only the Merlot grapes have reached ripeness, the Carménère
will have an aggressive green pepper flavor.
although different, Merlot and Carménère were often confused
but never thought to be identical. Its distinctive differences
meant the grape was called a "Merlot selection" or "Merlot
Peumal," which was "a geographic reference to a valley south
of Santiago where lots of Carménère was grown"
before its true identity was established.
Science of Wine Aroma
the Acids in Wine
(Tannins) in Wine
The Basic Wine Pairing Rules
Science of Food and Wine
a Wine Sommelier
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