Carmenere is a dark-skinned red grape variety originally found in the vineyards of Bordeaux, which is now mainly found in Chile, where it is sometimes also known as Grande Vidure. This late-ripening grape variety, requires a high amount of sunshine and a warm summer to reach its full potential, but if its grown under the right conditions this grape can produce fine, deeply-colored red wines that display the gently herbaceous, cedary notes of a Cabernet Sauvignon, and the attractive meaty plumpness of a Merlot.
Carmenere is sometimes known as the lost grape of Bordeaux. The grape was extensively planted there until the 1870 phylloxerae plague was thought to have made the variety extinct. It wasn't until 1994 that a French ampelographer by the name of Michel Boursiquot, whilst visiting Chile, noticed a vine which he instantly recognised as Carmenere. DNA testing later confirmed the fact that the species was not only alive, but flourishing in Chile. It had apparently been brought to Chile by wine growers, who actually thought it was Merlot, 20 years before the phylloxerae outbreak.
Although it can be found in small amounts elsewhere in the world Chile, with its dry, warm and moderate climate, is perfectly suited for growing the Carmenere grape. It is so well suited that around 98% of the worlds Carmenere is grown there.
The growing areas in the South of Chile have probably enjoyed the most success with the grape as they give Carmenere plenty of sunshine which helps this late-ripening variety to thrive. In the Maipo Valley, the home of the first generation of immigrant winemakers, the numerous vineyards between 1,300-3,300 feet in elevation that back up to the Andes Mountains grow Carmenere vines. Further south, the Rapel Valley, with Peumo at its center, is a major production area of Carmenere grapes, with an increasing number of Carmenere vineyards becoming established. In particular, the southern part of the valley has become a premier region within the country. Vineyards further south in Curico Valley also grow Carmenere but are more known for Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot. The Maule Valley, which is the most southerly part of the Central Valley, has substantial plantings of the grape, and the wine produced her seems to emphasize different characteristics.
Carmenere wines are dark and rich in color. They tend to be rich in berry fruit flavors like blackberry, and have mild notes of spice, such as black pepper or cinnamon. Typically they are medium bodied wines that are best enjoyed young. Carmenere pairs well with pork loin, steak, poultry and pastas with meat based sauces.