The rediscovery of Carmenere: 25 years on

International Carmenere Day is celebrated on November 24 in honor of this grape variety, which represents Chile around the world and is a source of national pride.

The Carmenere grape variety is originally from Bordeaux, France, and for centuries was only cultivated in that region. However, in 1860 the wine world was hit by the brutal and deadly phylloxera plague. This tiny insect, which affects grapevine routes and leaves, and absorbs the sap, led to the extinction of the Carmenere variety in France. 

In the middle of the 19th century, an intensive wine industry transformation process was underway in Chile: traditional Spanish grapevines were replaced by noble French grapevines, including varieties introduced from Bordeaux. In this way, Carmenere was unintentionally cultivated in Chile, having been mistaken for Chilean or late Merlot, given that the grapes could only be harvested in autumn. 

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In 1994, something caught the attention of French ampelographer Jean-Michel Boursiquot during a visit to a Chilean vineyard during the flowering period: the red-orange pigmentation of the buds. Without a doubt, these grapevines were of the Carmenere variety!  

Following an exhaustive study of the plants, including even a DNA test, it was demonstrated that Boursiquot’s assumption was correct. In Chile, the variety known as late Merlot was in fact Carmenere. This news generated a major impact in the global wine community, and was the starting point to position Carmenere as an iconic Chilean grape variety. 

The virtues of the Peumo terroir—with deep soil and a top layer of clay which retains humidity and enables the grapevine to remain active until the end of May, when Carmenere is harvested, as well as controlling its vigor and growth; warm days and cool nights; and the influence of the Cachapoal River, which enables slower grape maturation—have given rise to great Carmenere wines, including those listed below: 

  • Carmín de Peumo, the first iconic Chilean Carmenere: This wine, produced with pre-phylloxera staked grapevines, is deep and concentrated with a long finish, and stands out for certain typical nuances of the Peumo region, such as notes of graphite, silt and minerals. It is ideal for pairing with sophisticated Italian cuisine and dry cheese.

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  • Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Carmenere: This wine is also produced with grapes that originate from a vineyard located by the Cachapoal River, which results in considerable acidity thanks to the breeze that blows along the banks of this river.  Given that the Gran Serie Riberas Carmenere is silky and is characterized by the presence of black fruit notes, it is an excellent option to pair with beef and sweet-and-sour sauce.
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  • Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere: It is characterized by being a balanced wine, with firm tannins and pronounced acidity.  For that reason, this Marques de Casa Concha is a perfect wine to enjoy together with meats such as lamb, venison or wild boar, or beef and vegetable stir fries. 
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These are just a few! Discover your favorite Concha y Toro Carmenere by clicking here

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