Carménère

Back in November, we wrote a blog about the Malbec grape variety, which received a huge amount of feedback, even if some of it was spam!! We talked about the possibility of making a small planting of one of Bordeaux’s “lost grapes” and we got feedback from a couple of vignerons saying that they have already replanted Malbec. It makes a lot of sense.

Even less well known and virtually extinct in the Bordeaux’s vineyards these days is the Carménère grape, also called Grande Vidure locally, the last of Bordeaux’s six permitted red wine varieties. Even very little is written about it, so researching this article has been a long event! The origins of the variety are not easy to follow – there are claims that its’ origins go back to Roman times. In the early 1800’s, Carménère was widely planted in the Medoc and Graves, before the Phylloxera plague almost completely destroyed it in 1867, leaving almost no plants from which new cuttings could be taken to replant the vineyards. In the 1850s, pioneering Chilean wine producers exported cuttings from Bordeaux which, despite many years of confusion with Merlot vines, now form the basis of the Carménère’s successful new home.

Carménère likes a long growing season and dislikes colder humid seasons – possibly one of the factors for its lack of replanting in Bordeaux as older varieties of the vine were very susceptible to “coulure” which stops the vine flowering and drastically reduces yields. Modern day “globally warmed” Bordeaux may now be better suited to growing this grape variety successfully.

Glass of Carménère

And so what does it taste like? Carménère is a young drinking medium body wine with a good deep violet red colour and soft tannin structure. It often has a spicy red berry fruit nose and Chilean wines made from this variety are developing a positive reputation of being able to match gentle spiced foods, such as Chinese or Indian.  

So will we plant Carménère? We don’t have anywhere to plant it at present! But I would have to say that the future for Carménère looks brighter now in Bordeaux than it has for the last 150 years….watch this space for more news!!