Carmenère is a black grape from France that involuntarily found a new heartland in Chile.

Characteristics
Carménère grapes are recognised by producing wines of deep red colour, with medium high levels of tannins and acidity. Flavours are typically of red berries and spices. The grape has historically mostly been used for blending.

Wines
Even if mostly used in blends as for example in Bordeaux, there seems to be an increasing interest in producing varietal wines as well. They are typically made for early consumption and can then express flavours of sour cherries, but also darker notes of earth, chocolate and tobacco.

Food pairing
If you are to have a varietal Carmenère, a good idea is to pair it with not too heavily seasoned pork, lamb dishes, or why not some dry ham, some Jamón or Proscioutto di Parma? Serve at 14-16°C/ 57-61°F.

Where is it grown?
Worldwide, the Carmenère acreage has more than doubled between 2000 and 2010, from 5.711 ha/14,113 ac to 11.389 ha/28,143 ac. Not surprisingly, most of this increase has taken place in Chile, above all in the regions O’Higgins and Del Maule.

  • Chile 8.827 ha/21,812 ac. MPG rank 5, with a focus on the regions O’Higgins and Del Maule
  • China 1.353 ha/3,343 ac.MPG  rank 3
  • Italy 1.074 ha/2,654. MPG rank 73, plantings of various sizes in almost all regions

In France plantings of a mere 29 ha/72 ac are reported, mostly in Gironde in Bordeaux. In Argentina plantings of 56 ha/138 ac are spread over several regions.

In USA 22 ha/54 ac are found mostly in Madera, a county in central California. In Croatia, 19 ha/47 ac are reported to be found in Istria.

History
Supposedly one of the oldest varieties in Europe, Carmenère is a French grape. It is a cross between Moural and Cabernet Franc, and was thought to be extinct after the Phylloxera disease. However, when wine growers in Chile wanted to import cuttings of Merlot they instead got, as it has been shown later, cuttings from Carmenère.