Yes I am going outside California once again to mention one of my favorite wines and one that I collect, Carménère. Opened this bottle last night and thought it worthy of repeating a good story and one a lot of people are not familiar with today.
History of Carménère
The history of Carménère varietal is as fascinating as it is happenstance! It was once a blending wine in the Medoc region of Bordeaux. It served a similar purposes as Petit Verdot does today – producing a deep red ink on wines. It was part of the original seven red grapes of Bordeaux. Carménère originates from the French word for crimson (carmin) which refers to the crimson color of the autumn foliage.
When the Phylloxera plague hit in 1867 destroying most of the vineyards in Europe, many thought the Carménère grape was extinct. It wasn’t until approximately 150 years later that it was discovered that Chile had mistakenly preserved the Carménère grape thinking it was Merlot (from clippings planted from France). DNA confirmed it was the missing 6th varietal of Bordeaux. The 7th missing varietal of Bordeaux can be found at the following link in the third paragraph:
Carménère grows mainly in Chile, specifically the Colchagua Valley, Rapel Valley and in the Maipo Province. The Koyle Royale wine comes from Alto Colchagua and is 85% Carménère, 8% Malbec and 7% Petit Verdot. Wines from Chile must have 85% Carménère grapes with the other 15% being “others”. It is also grown in Italy, in Veneto and recently several wineries in Lodi, Napa and Calaveras are producing it, albeit in small quantities. Walla Walla also has some root stock growing in Carménère. This year a wine from Livermore Valley will debut and showcase a locally grown Carménère by Cuda Ridge Winery.
Uniqueness of Carménère
As a blend varietal it has the deep ruby coloring and aromas of red & dark fruits, plum and berries. Tannins are softer, milder and more refined than a Cabernet Sauvignon tannins, thus its use in blending to soften a strong Cabernet Sauvignon. Chile produces a 100% Carménère which has a cherry and fruity flavor but has traces of smoke and earthy notes with the inky coloration.
Where to get Carménère
In Napa one of wineries who has planted and blends Carménère to offer a unique “true Bordeaux” is O’Shaughnessy Winery. Their 2013 Howell Mountain uses all seven of the Bordeaux grapes. Both Robert Parker and Antonio Galloni rated this wine as 95 points. Truly a wonderful wine, worthy of tasting and putting into your cellar.
Most 100% Carmenere wines are available from Chile and offer a unique “change of pace”. Stay tune for the announcement of the first Livermore Valley grown Carménère this summer by Cuda Ridge Winery.