Explore this Fall with Carmenere

Was it Merlot, or Cabernet Franc? Yes! And then it became Carmenere, the black sheep of the Bordeaux family.


With one final nod to experimentation this year, I’m leaving you with this suggestion for fall: Try some Carmenere! It’s a variety that I’ve been pushing as a mid-weight summer red because it is a great wine with grilled meats, but it’s also a lovely wine for fall, though perhaps best used with some well seasoned, herb-dotted pork dishes as the weather cools. Or if you’re like me and keep on grilling until the snow is so deep that you just can’t get to the grill, nothing is better than lamb and beef grilled with rosemary and garlic -- paired with a great bottle of Carmenere.

While this is a rather narrow selection of Carmenere from which to choose, I hope that it gets you in the spirit of trying something new. As a wine I’ve always thought that Carmenere is a rough amalgam of the Bordeaux varieties. It merges the herbaceous and bright nature of Cabernet Franc with the softer tannins of Merlot and the vibrant fruit of Cabernet Sauvignon.
The trick, when it comes to Carmenere, is taming the herbaceousness to make an integrated and attractive accent to the ripe, but still mostly red fruit the variety is capable of. It’s a hit or miss proposition, and one that many producers are getting better at accomplishing. It certainly makes tasting Carmenere a fun and surprising endeavor. While most Carmenere continues to come from Chile, where it not only thrives but also produces some of the country’s top wines, there are glimpses of Carmenere coming from a few other spots around the globe, most prominently perhaps in Italy -- and Northern Italy in particular, where the variety was planted and sold as Cabernet Franc.
In Chile it was thought to be Merlot. Funny how things happen. You think you have thing one your hands, and it doesn't do what it’s supposed to do well. Change your mind set and accept that you have something else and voila! International hit, though truth be told ripening Carmenere continues to be a challenge so I don’t expect that we’ll be seeing acreage growing that much. So that’s the story. Carmenere: it’s not what they thought it was but it is a TERRIFIC wine that is finding its way in the wine world. Check out a few examples and see what you think of this black sheep of the Bordeaux family.

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