Wine aficionados may have heard about the globally-renowned Bordeaux region in France. Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec and Carménère are the original six red grapes that are used to produce a red Bordeaux wine. Never heard of Carménère grape? Not surprising at all – thought to be extinct once, Carménère rarely exists in France today. This is because it was wiped out in such a manner during the Great French Wine Blight that it was presumed as extinct for several years. (The Great French Wine Blight was a plague caused by ‘Phylloxera’ bugs in the 1800s that destroyed 40% of the French vineyards and did massive damage to the country’s economy.) First things first, let’s discuss the flavour profile of the grape.
A bit about Carménère
The wine produced from Carménère grape is a medium-bodied wine. If you have had Merlot, please note that Carménère wines have a similar body. They show red fruit characters, including aromas reminiscent of raspberry sauce and cherries. A touch of spice, particularly green peppercorns, adds to the array of fragrances and flavours, while tannins softer than what one would find in Cabernet Sauvignon integrate the palate. Granite-like minerality is another delightful feature of the drink. Even though it might be very difficult to find Carménère varietal wine today, remember to pair it with lamb served alongside mint chimichurri sauce or your favourite Thai preparation.
With Carménère hardly being produced in France today, most of it comes from Chile. Modern day winemakers are also experimenting with blending it with Cabernet Sauvignon. In fact, the variety is often referred to as “a clone of Cabernet Sauvignon”.
As for Australia, Victoria-based Amietta Vineyard & Winery uses Carménère grape to produce blended wines. Cuttings of the grape were imported from Chile in the late 1990s. Here’s hoping that the variety thrives in Australia as it did once in France and all the wine lovers out there get to taste it!