Concha y Toro

Ania Smolec 23/11/2015

Carmenere: Chile’s signature grape and its food pairings

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After the phylloxera plague in the late 19th century, when the epidemic destroyed most of the vineyards for wine grapes in Europe, especially in France, wine world did not hear about Carmenere for many decades. Before that, Carmenere was one of the classic varieties of the Bordeaux blend. And absolutely nobody ever thought that this old variety could be found in Chile.

Nobody knows how and when exactly Carmenere came to Chile, but the most probable theory points it was transported from France with the cuttings for the new vineyards. The situation changed in 1994 when the French ampelograph from the Montpellier University Jean Michel Boursiquot, the speaker of The Sixth Latin America Congress of Viticulture and Enology organized in Chile, identified the previously unknown late maturing variety as the clone of Carmenere. From this moment, Carmenere under its own real name came to the picture of Chilean viticulture.

Carmenere is a very long cycle variety. It is the last one to cut in harvest time. In Chile, Concha y Toro winemakers pick up Carmenere at the end of April and in the first weeks of May. This grape variety really needs time to be mature and in a perfect ripeness moment. Winemakers underline that Carmenere demands lots of attention in the vineyard, but most of all needs specific climatic and geological conditions, like a good balance of sunny days and rainfall, deep soils, warmer days and cooler nights.

Concha y Toro discovered very particular place to cultivate Carmenere. In the heart of the Cachapoal valley, in a small plateau near Rapel Lake, there is Peumo vineyard with its perfect microclimate and soil structure. The soil is deep, with a proportional resource of clay and sand. The nearness of Cachapoal River and Rapel Lake contribute to the sub humid Mediterranean microclimate; simply the perfect conditions to harvest “happy” Carmenere grapes.

Carmenere-Eng

From this vineyard comes the velvety and round Terrunyo Carmenere. This wine is a definition of what Carmenere should be. It is deep, spicy and medium bodied. The color is crimson purple. The bouquet is built around the red fruit aromas, with some hints of juicy grilled vegetables, like red sweet bell pepper. Other aromas to detect in the glass of Terrunyo Carmenere are: berries, black pepper, chocolate, coffee, tobacco, leather, earth and cloves. This wine is marked by its silky structure and perfect balance between the elegance and potential of the tannins. It has a good structure, but at the same time vibrant frutal freshness.

Terrunyo Carmenere has a great color, soft tannins and intense flavors. It creates perfect pairings with red meats like beef or lamb cooked in herbs sauce, like typical Chilean plateada. I cannot imagine anything better than Carmenere with this traditional Chilean recipe. Think about this variety whenever you want to go for vegetables or vegetarian dishes. Choose more structured meatless recipes with grilled vegetables, mushrooms, black olives and herbs. The pepper and species touch in Carmenere’s bouquet also gives the opportunity to reach Oriental condiments in Indian cuisine. Don’t hesitate to experiment with coriander, curry and cardamom in your dishes.

Recipe: super easy Ratatouille

Ratatouille

Ingredients

  • 0.5 cups of olive oil
  • 4 cloves of garlic (crashed)
  • 1 onion
  • 2 eggplants
  • 2 zucchinis
  • 1 red pepper
  • 1 green bell pepper
  • 2 large and ripe tomatoes
  • 0.5 cups of tomato juice or tomato puree
  • 2 tablespoons of herbs: basil, oregano, marjoram, bay leaf and thyme
  • Few pinches of salt and pepper
  1. Wash all the vegetables, cut them into the cubes. To the eggplant add some salt and allowed it to stand for a half an hour. Then wipe and dry up with the paper towel.
  2. Warm the oil and fry eggplant on it, up to a slightly golden color. Keep it in some bowl.
  3. In the same oil fry the garlic and onion. They have be softer not crunchy.
  4. Now cut the bell peppers and keep them on the medium heat until slightly softened.
  5. Next step is the tomato juice, tomatoes and all the spices. At the end add the zucchini and eggplant.
  6. The whole ratatouille soul at a fairly low heat, covered, occasionally stirring. The dish is ready when the vegetables are quite soft, but do not fly apart and still put teeth resistance. You can specify decorated with fresh basil, parsley or chopped black olives.