For those of you looking for wines for Thanksgiving, we have a spin for you on the traditional Chardonnay or Pinot Noir. Don’t worry, we’ll get to that, but not today. Today we’re joining the folks from Wines of Chile to celebrate World Carménère Day!
Once widely planted in the Bordeaux region of France, specifically in the Médoc, Carménère (pronounced Car-men-AIR) was one of the six original Bordeaux varietals, which also included Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Malbec, Cabernet Franc and Petit Verdot. One of the deepest, darkest, most purple of all the red grades, its name comes from “carmin” the French word for crimson, which is the fiery color its leaves turn in autumn.
In 1851, Carménère made its way to Chile, before the Phylloxera epidemic took over France, which is thought to have entered France around 1858. In 1863, Phylloxera aphid was first recorded in the Languedoc region of France, and quickly spread across many pf the country’s vineyards, laying waste to much of France’s wine industry.
But the Chileans did not know exactly what they had. Due to its similar leaf color and grape cluster shape, Chileans mistook Carménère for Merlot. It wasn’t until 1994 that it was properly identified at Vina Carmen, Chile’s oldest winery. It was then, they noticed the differences between Carménère and Merlot.
2. Leaf Lobes: The Lobes of a Carménère leaf overlap at the stem; Merlot leaves do not.
3. Fall Color: While Merlot leaves turn yellow, Carménère leaves change to a fiery autumn red.
4. Harvest Time: Carménère is harvested late, up to three weeks after Merlot. In Chile, it is the last grape harvested. Since Chile is in the Southern Hemisphere, that means picking occurs in May and June in many valleys.
21 years since it was rediscovered, Carménère is the fourth largest produced varietal by volume in Chile. In just the past 15 years, Carménère vines have tripled in Chile since 2000; in part due to the discovery of mismarked vineyards, and in part due to new planting. In Chile, there are now 8,827 hectares under vine — nearly 22,000 acres! This resulted in over 23 millions bottles of Carménère produced in the Colchagua Valley
Pairings: Carménère is reddish deep purple in color, and features flavors of blackberries and black pepper. Favorable pairings include red meats, especially lamb. It also works very well with bacon. Here’s a great Carménère pairing recipe to prepare for Thanksgiving, compliments of the folks at Wines of Chile:
Brussels Sprouts with Dry-Aged Bacon, Shallots and Fennel
Join me, @WineWonkette at 7 p.m. Eastern as we taste, tweet and learn more about the wine that has become synonymous with Chile. We shall be tasting with Master Sommelier Fred Dexheimer and the Chilean winemakers from @Casa_Silva @VinaKoyle @MontesWines @Tamayawines @Lapostellewine @Pasternakwine @MarquisWines and @SantaritaEst Look for #CarmenereDay on Twitter and Periscope to keep up with the conversation!