Carménère is a black grape most associated with Chile, although it is originally from Bordeaux, France. When the Phylloxera plague of 1867 killed most of the grape vines in Europe, Carménère didn’t make much of a comeback and almost went extinct. However, the grape was revitalized when it was introduced to Chile soon after as French wine-growers brought it down to plant vineyards similar to their native lands. For many years, it was assumed to be Merlot, as some of its primary fruit flavors, distinctive green pepper notes and vine leaves mimicked the famous Bordeaux variety. After much testing, The Chilean Department of Agriculture recognized Carménère as its own grape variety in 1998.
This grape produces wine with high acidity, medium alcohol and high tannins. The primary fruit flavors are raspberry, sour cherry, black cherry, and plum. It also has distinctive flavors of green pepper, black pepper, and green herb. Oaked Carménère picks up additional flavors of vanilla, dark chocolate and coffee. Aged styles display tertiary flavors of leather, tobacco and dried fruit.
Carmenère is a versatile grape that pairs well with flavorful meats, including lamb, roasted chicken, tuna, Italian Beef, and grilled steak. It also compliments hearty dishes like pastas in meat sauce, beef stew, pork tacos, mushroom risotto, and pizza. Many enjoy it along popular sides including roasted vegetables and hard cheeses like cheddar, Parmesan and Pecorino.
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