Carmenere, the red Bordeaux grape that disappeared from French vineyards after Europe’s phylloxera crisis in the mid-19th century, was rediscovered in Chile in the mid-1990s, and opened up a whole new chapter in the history of Chilean wine.
It had been mixed into the Merlot vineyards and was originally harvested at the same time, but as winemakers gained experience with the grape, they realized that it needed more time to ripen and has in large part been responsible for extending Chile’s harvest period by more than a month and opening the opportunity to participate in harvest activities well into May.
Carmenere is a wine grape originally planted in the Médoc region of Bordeaux, France, where it was used to produce deep red wines for blending in the same manner as Petit Verdot.
A member of the Cabernet family of grapes, the name Carmenere originates from carmin, the French word for carmine red, which refers to the bright red color of the autumn foliage prior. The variety is also known as Union regulations prohibit Chilean imports under this name into the European Union. Carmenere is considered to be one of Bordeaux’s original six red grapes, along with Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Merlot, Malbec and Petit Verdot.
Now rarely found in France, the world’s largest area planted to this variety is in Chile in South America, with more than 9,000 hectares grown in the Central Valley. As such, Chile produces the vast majority of Carmenere wines available today, and winemakers are exploring its potential as a stand-alone variety and in blends, especially with Cabernet Sauvignon.
If you would like to enjoy a relaxing harvest experience, April and May are the perfect months for touring Chile.