All you need to know about Carménère: A quick guide
Carménère is a red wine variety that is quite often full of bold cherry, plum, pepper, and spice. It originated in France, but little is found there today after being almost wiped out by phylloxera. 98% of Carménère is grown in Chile!
A few more notes on Carménère:
- It shares a lot of the same tasting notes as Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, and Merlot as it’s related to each in one way or another!
- The parents of Carménère are Cabernet Franc and Gros Cabernet.
- It was actually mistaken for Merlot in Chile until 1994; In 1998 it became its own known variety.
The following guide will illustrate what Carménère tastes like (aroma, flavor, and structure). It will also tell you where it’s from, provide you with common food recommendations, similar varieties, and let you know why you should be drinking more of it!
How would I describe Carménère?
Carménère wines show both red and black fruit usually but have a lot of plum and black cherry. Bitter chocolate and coffee notes are also common. It can be an incredibly deep wine.
There’s a nice “meaty” element to Carménère that isn’t always found in the other red wines in the same family.
Carménère is full of pyrazines, a compound that shows flavors of green pepper, chives, jalapenos, etc. These are notes that you will also find in other Bordeaux varieties.
What does Carménère taste like?
These are the most familiar tastes and aromas I typically find in a glass of Carménère. It’s also common to find pomegranate, blackberry, black currant, violets, black pepper, coffee, vanilla, and herbs (mint) depending upon where the wine is from, and how it is made.
Remember, wine tastes are somewhat relative. There may be some different tasting notes you consistently find while drinking Carménère.
What about structure?
Medium Plus Body
Think of that weight as a liquid scale, from water (light body) to heavy cream (full body) in your mouth. It can vary, but Carménère is somewhere between medium to full!
Medium Plus Acid
You can judge acidity based on whether your mouth waters after you take a sip of something. The more you salivate, the higher the acid. Carménère has medium to medium-plus acid.
Medium Plus Alcohol
You can feel alcohol ‘burn’ the back of your throat when you take a sip. Carménère ranges, but is typically med-high in alcohol.
Tannin contributes to the dryness of
Where is Carménère from?
Primarily in: The Central Valley (Maipo and Rapel)
Despite originating in France, you’ll find that Carménère is practically extinct from that area. 95% of Carménère is grown in Chile.
MAIPO VALLEY: This is the most well-known region within Chile and the area of largest production (most of the big producers are headquartered here). Because it’s the capital city area (Santiago), there’s a good amount of smog around and Carménère can vary in quality. If it’s good, there’s a great mix of dark and red fruit, green elements, and spice.
RAPEL VALLEY: This is where the most quality Carménère is sourced. It’s a very dry area that is focused mostly on red wines. Good producers source their grapes from Colchagua Valley or Cachapoal Valley, which are subregions within! Most bulk red wine is from Colchagua, but both areas produce delicious Carmenere. The best having plummy dark fruits, spice, chocolate, green pepper, and herbal notes.
You can also find small amounts of Carménère from France, Italy, USA, and China.
What food should I pair with Carménère?
The ripe fruit flavors and spice notes make this wine a great pairing for sweet and savory sauces. Often there’s a smokey element to Carménère as well which will really bring out the flavor of most BBQ dishes.
This grape has very rustic and smokey elements. A perfect complement to anything grilled. The smoother tannin in Carménère seems to do better with nonfatty meats. Add BBQ sauce for an even better pairing!
Mexican cuisine is often full of peppers, especially jalapenos! Carménère shows a LOT of vegetal notes, mainly green pepper. So as long as the dish isn’t TOO spicy, Mexican and Carménère make for a great pairing. Corn is a plus as well.
Other Pairings: Pasta, Pesto, Peppers, Stews, Pork, Lamb, Salsa, Herbs, Mint
What other similar varieties would I enjoy?
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