Carmenere is Chile’s biggest claim to mystery wine fame. It was once thought of as a deep purple coloured variant of Merlot that had somehow found a wild and flavoursome new lease of life in Chile, but when a French grape buster by the name of Jean Michel Bousiquot got wind of this, something smelt fishy, or perhaps we should say, it smelt grapey but not as you’d expect it. Boursiquot is a French ampelographer, which means his job is vine identification and in 1994 he travelled to Merlot to discover what this dark coloured Merlot was really all about. Upon seeing the mystery grape, he immediately identified it as Carmenere; a late ripening, dark coloured French black grape that originates in Bordeaux and nearly died out in france following phylloxera in the late 1980s.
Today, Chile is the world’s HQ of Carmenere and Bordeaux retains small plantings of this interesting black grape variety, which is used to add colour and tannin to many Bordeaux reds, but the best winemakers there tend to use it only in good vintages small quantities.
Chile, on the other hand, makes many 100% Carmeneres, such as our Wine Wednesday - 2015 De Martino Estate Carmenere from the Valle del Maipo - usually $21.99 and on special this week for $18.99.