A Tale Of Two Chilean Carménères


Carmenere 2Carménère originated in Bordeaux, France and appeared in Chile in the mid-1800s, where it was wrongly identified as Merlot. It was only through DNA testing in 1994 that what had always been thought to have been Merlot was confirmed to be Carménère. This was an easy enough error to make – the two vines are remarkably similar and the wines produced from each share some principal characteristics. Carménère is now one of the dominant wines of Chile. 

Carménère vines are temperamental, preferring a dry climate, with little to no cold tolerance. December through February (summer in Chile) see warm, dry conditions with little rain; intense sun; and low humidity. Central Valley soils are composed of clay, sand and granite. The clay offers some respite to dry conditions, helping to preserve the limited moisture available.

Carménère grapes are very dark, require a long growing season, and are fussy about growing conditions. Growers and winemakers must exercise patience in order to achieve the full character of the wine, including careful control of the vines to avoid overproduction and the resulting thin-flavoured wines. No doubt all would agree that their efforts are well worth it.

Carménère (Chile)
Cellar Craft Showcase Collection
Bottled July 2014

13.5%  abv

As might be expected due to the darkness of the grapes, the wine was a deep, inky ruby shade.

Primary aromas were of dark red berries; plum; brown sugar/caramel; spices; wet, dark earth. Secondary aromas were those of deep, subtle smokiness; with herbal notes of lavender.

Flavours were deep and dark, of plum; black cherry; very ripe strawberry; aged leather; cedar and well-composted earth–decidedly savoury flavours. It offered up a plump mouthfeel with no harshness. The finish was long and tingly.

The acidity of this Cellar Craft Showcase Carménère was in balance with the intense flavours and tannins; medium-full bodied and dry. Ideal with barbequed/smoked meats; roasted vegetable dishes; traditional Chilean dishes such as Curanto, a fish/meat/seafood/vegetable combination most often cooked in a pot buried in the ground. Give it a try with various types of medium-dark chocolate for a simple after-dinner treat.

Carménère (Chile)
Wine Cellar Sommelier Reserve Collection
2014 Limited Release
Bottled March 2014
14% abv

2014 Carmenere Limited ReleaseLimited Release wines are special offerings sourced from different regions throughout the world. Because Limited Release wines are created from small lots of exceptional vintage grapes, they can never be replicated. 

This Carménère was dark ruby with an obvious brick-coloured tone, one of the indicators of a slightly older wine.

The most prominent aromas of this limited release version were those of smoked meat; dark berries; green olive, with peppermint and soft vanilla undertones.

One of the most noticeable flavours was of fresh, wet earth/mushroom compost. This was a very fruit-forward version with pronounced, very ripe strawberry and raspberry; and an amount of minerality. Underlying spice notes may have been the result of the slightly higher alcohol level.

This limited release Carménère was very well balanced, leading to an overall impression of a more sedate version of a well-crafted wine. 

If you still have a 2014 Wine Cellar Limited Release edition Carménère in your cellar, it would partner great with vegetable based dishes as well as with roasted game and duck.

Prepared for Wine Kitz Ottawa Iris
By Wendy Smyth, Certified Sommelier
July 2015

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