Carmenère is a red grape originally from the Médoc region of Bordeaux, France. The grape was favored in Bordeaux in the early 18th century, though today it is nearly extinct there and is much more popular in Chile, where it undoubtedly produces the best wines.
The Carmenère grape was likely introduced to Chile from Bordeaux in the late 19th century, though it was not until 1994 that it was correctly identified—until then, it had been mistaken for Merlot. Its key regions are in Aconcagua and the Central Valley, especially within Colchagua Valley. Carmenère has become a national specialty and a point of pride for many Chilean wine producers.
Today, there are Carmenère wines made in Italy and China as well as Argentina, Brazil, Croatia, France, New Zealand and the United States. In the Italian regions of Trentino and Lombardy, varietal wines are produced under the local name Carmenero.
Carmenère can produce full-bodied wines with a deep red color and aromas of black fruit, bell pepper, spice, subtle herbs and berries. Its tannins are softer, resulting in wines that are often more readily accessible when young as opposed to other red cultivars like Cabernet Sauvignon. While there are many single-variety expressions, it is also commonly used in blends.
Some wineries use tiny amounts of Carmenère as a component of their red Bordeaux-style blends, rarely accounting for more than 1% of the overall blend. Its decline in popularity in Bordeaux may be attributed in part to its low yield and late ripening, later even than Cabernet Sauvignon. If harvested early and underripe, the wine can have an excessively herbaceous character. After Phylloxera had decimated Bordeaux vineyards, Carmenère was not widely replanted and was virtually abandoned in the region.
Perhaps not surprisingly given its history of mistaken identity, Carmenère is often confused with or compared to other wine grape varieties; red Bordeaux varietals, in particular. It is comparable to the Cabernet Sauvignon regarding its weight and body, though with less tannic structure. Both wines are robust, full-bodied and relatively long-lived.
It also shares some of the elegance and charm of Merlot, as well as its propensity to offer bold dark-fruit flavors when ripe, which may go some way towards explaining why the two were confused for so long in Chile. Cabernet Franc, another Bordeaux grape, shares tendency towards an overly herbaceous flavor profile if harvested too early, or when yields are not kept low enough, though many people consider touches of those herbal qualities to be favorable qualities for added depth and complexity.
Learn more about this popular grape, and browse top-rated Carmenère wines, selected and tasted by the professionals at Wine Enthusiast Magazine. Our easy-to-use database will help you find the wine to suit your palate.
Ventisquero 2014 Vertice Apalta Vineyard Carmenère-Syrah (Colchagua Valley)ChileVentisquero may make more expensive wines but none are better than this ...Editors’ ChoiceSee Full Review$30
Casa Donoso 2015 Sucesor Blue Limited Release Red (Maule Valley)ChileBold black currant and wild berry aromas are made complex by oaky ...Editors’ ChoiceSee Full Review$47
MontGras 2015 Antu Cabernet Sauvignon-Carmenère (Colchagua Valley)ChileA warm, spicy nose with earthy plum and berry fruit shows a ...See Full Review$20
Valdivieso 2014 Caballo Loco Grand Cru Red (Apalta)ChileHeady aromas of cola, root beer, coconut, fig and tobacco provide classic ...See Full Review$35
Apaltagua 2017 Envero Gran Reserva Estate Grown Apalta Vineyard Selection Carmenère (Colchagua Valley)ChileSaucy berry aromas come with varietal aromas of green bean, fresh green ...See Full Review$17
Carmen 2017 Gran Reserva Carmenère (Colchagua Valley)ChileJammy berry aromas are ripe and slightly candied, with only a hint ...See Full Review$19
Viña Maipo 2017 Vitral Reserva Carmenère (Central Valley)ChileSaucy, herbal black fruit flavors come with notes of tomato sauce and ...Best BuySee Full Review$11
J. Bouchon 2017 Canto Sur Red (Maule Valley)ChileGeneric berry aromas come with grassy notes. In the mouth, this blend ...See Full Review$15
Apaltagua 2018 Reserva Carmenere Rosé (Maule Valley)ChileAromas of matchstick, sulfur and citrus fruit require airing and swirling to ...See Full Review$13
Puente Austral 2017 Reserva Privada Carmenère (Colchagua Valley)ChileAromas of olive, exotic spices and charred wood don't allow for much ...See Full Review$12
Viña Requingua 2017 Toro de Piedra Gran Reserva Carmenère-Cabernet Sauvignon (Maule Valley)ChileSoupy, slightly green aromas are herbal but common for base-level Carmenère and ...See Full Review$15
Terrapura 2018 Reserva Carmenère (Colchagua Valley)ChileFoxy berry and milk chocolate aromas lead to a muscular palate that's ...See Full Review$12
Root:1 2017 Carmenère (Colchagua Valley)ChileA flat nose revolves around herbal scents, grassy green notes and animal. ...See Full Review$12
Junta 2018 Reserve Momentos Carmenère (Curicó Valley)ChileChocolate and oak-slathered blackberry aromas set up a hot and heavy palate ...See Full Review$10
Oveja Negra 2017 Reserva Cabernet Franc-Carmenère (Maule Valley)ChileRubber and clove aromas are not fully convincing, while this blend of ...See Full Review$11
Carta Vieja 2018 Carmenère (Loncomilla Valley)ChilePrickly red berry aromas feed a raw palate, while candied, weedy red ...See Full Review$6
Drink Washington State 2016 Visit Wahluke Slope Carmenère (Wahluke Slope)Columbia ValleyIntriguing aromas of savory herb, pine sap, Satsuma orange and red fruit ...See Full Review$29
Multi 2015 Best Vintage Red (Central Valley)ChileA weighty yet balanced nose offers bold berry aromas matched by oaky ...Editors’ ChoiceSee Full Review$50
Maquis 2015 Gran Reserva Carmenère (Colchagua Valley)ChileOlive and spiced plum aromas are stout, but with zest and snap. ...See Full Review$20
Château Tour de Pressac 2016 Saint-ÉmilionBordeauxSmall quantities of Carmenère and Malbec add a touch of spice and ...See Full Review$40
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