To celebrate Carménère Day, held on 24 November each year, we take a look at the grape, its origins, confusion surrounding it and of course its wines.
Origins and Locations
- Carménère is a grape which originated in Bordeaux, France.
- The varietal is the result of a cross between Cabernet Franc and either Moural or Trousseau.
- While the grape may have originated in France, Chile has the world’s most significant plantings of Carménère. It has 21800 acres compared to just 70 acres in France.
- Small plantings can be found in Australia in Geelong, King Valley, Murray Darling, Clare Valley, Western Plains and Adelaide Hills.
- Of the 5 million cases of Carménère produced around the world, 84% are from Chile. China makes up a surprising 14% where it is called Cabernet Gernischt (which possibly comes from a misspelling of ‘Cabernet gemischt’, the German term for ‘mixed Cabernet’.
The name Carménère
- The name Carménère is thought to have been inspired by the colour of the varietal’s autumn foliage. Carmin is the French word for crimson.
- Carménère is also known as Carmenere, Cabernet Gernischt, and Carmenere Crni. In Médoc it’s also known as Grande Vidure, Carméneyre, Carmenelle, Cabernelle, and Bouton Blanc. In Graves as Carbouet and Carbonet.
- Carménère is part of the Carmenet family of wine-grape varieties. The group also comprises Cabernet Franc, Cabernet Sauvignon, Gros Cabernet, Merlot, Merlot Blanc and Hondarribi Beltza.
Mistaken for other grapes
- The varietal was thought to be extinct after the 1867 phylloxera outbreak in France. However, in 1991, it was found growing in Chile, where it was thought to be Merlot.
- In New Zealand, it was mistaken for Cabernet Franc. Similarly, some of China’s plantings of Cabernet Gernischt may actually be Cabernet Franc.
- The varietal shares the following characteristics with Merlot which often causes the confusion between the two varietals:
- Young, cottony branch
- Young leaves have shiny orange-red leaves with a tan coloured surface
- Mature leaves are shiny and have 5 lobes
- Small clusters and medium-sized rounded grapes.
- The grape is the latest ripening of the Bordeaux varieties and has the greatest propensity to retain methoxy-pyrazine green flavours.
- When ripened properly in a warm climate, the wines are bold with a deep violet colour, high tannin, and medium to high acidity.
- On the nose, the wines can have notes of red and black fruits, spice, smokiness and herbs.
- On the palate, you can expect green capsicum, tobacco, leather and maybe even dark chocolate.
Have you tried this wine before? Happy Carménère Day!
For more information about this varietal and some Australian wines made from it, check out our article from last year.
For other French wine varietals: