The new style of Chilean Carmenere

access_time 2020 · 11 · 10

Wines that rescue the herbaceous character of the grape and thanks to years of experience with this variety, are showing a fresher style of Carmenere with richer acidity.

It was in November 1994 when the French ampelographer Jean-Michel Boursiquot, in his brief visit to Chile, rediscovered Carmenere while visiting a vineyard in the Maipo Valley. Until then, Chileans drank Carmenere believing it was Merlot. It was thanks to that milestone, and the 26 years of experience after this discovery, that the flagship grape variety of the Chilean wine industry managed to evolve.

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Ph: Marcio Ramirez

Carmenere is a wine grape that is characterized by its herbal notes, also called “green notes”, and for a long time these were considered as something negative. If you don’t understand what we are talking about, remember the aromas and flavours of green peppercorn, eucalyptus or bell pepper. Have you ever noticed these aromas while sipping a glass of Carmenere? If not, don’t worry. What happens is that for a long time wood was used as a way to hide these characteristics. And then it was also tried to dissipate the green notes by harvesting later to overripe the grape. However, let’s say that both practices didn’t help to achieve well balanced wines. For decades and generally speaking, of course, the mature style of Carmenere prevailed: over-riped grapes aged in new oak but still with green tannins. A wine that, despite its great story, has not managed to conquer that crusade that seeks to raise Carmenere as our flag in the world.

A new dimension

Despite its short history in Chile, some winegrowers and winemakers understood that things had to be done in another way. That they had to look for a new dimension of Carmenere.

This style, unlike the previous one, believes that “green notes” in small quantities can be a positive quality. And instead of hiding them, it is better to respect them and know how to handle them. To do this, the harvest is done earlier, which allows obtaining grapes with greater freshness and acidity, but preserving their typicity (such as those spiced notes of pepper). But, in addition, the winemakers realized that the more stressed the vines were, the sooner the production of pyrazines (which gives that vegetal note to the wines) would stop.

Thus, today there is a new bunch of Carmenere that presents its vegetable side in a more friendly way, in wines with greater acidity and tension, whose aging in wood does not seek to hide its character.

This new dimension of Carmenere also understands the importance of origin, and today some excellent Carmeneres are produced in places like Alto Maipo and Apalta. However, there are also warm and famous terroirs for this grape like Peumo, which give rise to important wines.

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Ph: Marcio Ramirez

Peumo is the origin, to name a few, of Carmín de Peumo, Terrunyo Carmenere and Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Carmenere. Thanks to its sandy loam soil with some clay, and to the harvests carried out between the months of April and May, Terrunyo Carmenere is one of the wines that has proven to be looking for this new style, a fresher one. It has notes of berries and blueberries, some cedar and violets. On the palate it is fresh, fruity, with rich acidity and sweet tannins. Also a hint of wood given by an aging of only 9 months in French oak barrels.

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Its aging method has also evolved. The use of concrete eggs, larger oak vats and steel tanks is another direction taken by the Carmenere producers, so the wood does not overshadow the qualities of the wine.

Undoubtedly, actions that already allow us to speak of a new era. Of the new style of the Chilean Carmenere. Perhaps, a new chance to definitely call it our flagship variety.

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