In the wine world, Chile is best known for its terrific cabernet sauvignon and merlot wines. These wine styles are made from renowned red grapes, both native to France’s Bordeaux region and both closely related, sharing a parent in a more ancient French grape named cabernet franc. There is a third red grape in this family, but it is much more obscure. It’s called carménère, and Chile is the only country to grow it on any significant scale.
Historically, carménère was grown in Bordeaux alongside its more famous relations. Its wines bore a family resemblance, too, featuring merlot-like aromatics and fruitiness, but with a deep color and tannic grip more like that of cabernet sauvignon. However, when an insect pest devastated France’s vineyards in the late 19th century, few Bordelais vintners replanted carménère since it was harder to grow than merlot and didn’t perform as consistently as cabernet sauvignon.
Carménère would have faded from memory entirely if vine cuttings from Bordeaux had not been brought to Chile prior to its French decline. Oddly, though, these carménère vines were mistaken for merlot and their progeny remained misidentified for well over a century.
Nowadays, Chilean winemakers know what a treasure they have — this lost grape of Bordeaux is planted over acres of vineyards. And it’s a fairy tale ending for carménère, too, since it ripens better and yields better wine in Chile than it did in France. This delicious example is organically farmed and ideally suited to grilled meats. It features a classic carménère flavor profile, loaded with black cherry flavors and aromatic accents of black olives and dried herbs.
Natura “Organic” Carménère (14% ABV)
On sale for $9.99 through Feb. 2 (regularly $11.99); PLCB Item #6660