As you may know I’m just back from a trip to Chile, where I spent a week traveling around much of the country in search of great wines. While Chile’s wine scene is complex, with great wines from many of the major varieties, I was most interested in their own vinous treasure. Or I should say the vinous treasure I was aware of.

Of course I’m talking about Carmenere, though time may prove that Chile’s old vine Carignan and Pais grapes are equally as important. For today, neither has the volume to make much of a dent in the consciousness of wine drinkers outside of the country. Carmenere on the other hand is a fairly commonly planted grape and one that has all the right things going for it.

Once known as “Chilean Merlot,” and responsible for some pretty disappointing Merlot when you think of it, Carmenere was only identified as such in 1994. Before that it was assumed to be a late ripening clone of Merlot. When it was interspersed with real Merlot, it had a profound impact on what ended up in the bottle.