Carmenere is an enigmatic grape. The vines so closely resemble Merlot that for nearly 100 years Carmenere disappeared across the world as growers unsure of its identity (was it Merlot?) decided to just call it Merlot and treat it in the same way.
The aptly named winery, Viña Carmen, in Chile ‘re-discovered’ Carmenere in its vineyards 15 years ago, formally identifying the vine for the records and bottling the first varietally labelled Carmenere in 1996.
15 years of improvements in viticultural techniques and a much better understanding of the grape itself (it is not after all Merlot and shouldn’t be treated in the same way) has allowed the variety to flourish in Chile – the place where Carmenere has most definitely found its karma! Many other wineries across Chile have identified the vine on their land or planted new vineyards and Carmenere is now generally recognised as Chile’s signature grape.
Juicy, aromatic and slightly spicy it is a delicious variety that is brilliant with spicy food and in particular some of the UK’s favourite Indian sauces such as Masala and Korma.
When unoaked, Carmenere’s own aromatic qualities mirror and enhance the distinctive, flavours of coriander and cardomom. When fuller and with a little oak, the spicy edge of the grape and the kick of vanilla oak work well with smoky dishes from the tandoor.
There are of course a multitude of different spicy dishes, not only from India but Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia too. We are starting off with our favourites from India, so watch this space and…… Viva Carmenere!
The Wines of Chile Team