Ultimate Guide to Carménère Wine: Everything You Need To Know

Carmenere wine guide

Carmenere wine has been called many things:

  • Lost grape of Bordeaux
  • Thought to be Merlot for 150 years
  • Chile’s Signature Wine!

Initially believed to be extinct, it was identified as Merlot for over a century due to its striking similarity. Surprisingly, the grape is part of Cabernet Franc’s family and that has led many people to refer this wine as a “clone” of Cabernet Sauvignon.

Originated in France, Carménère wine is now largely produced and cultivated in Chile, where it has effectively become the country’s “national” wine.

And being a New World red wine coming from the Cabernet family of grapes, it has many similarities to Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, but with a much cheaper price tag. Therefore, Chile is widely considered as one of the world’s best bargains when it comes to wine. 

Table of Contents

What is Carménère Wine?

Carménère wines are red wines that are made from the Carménère grape. And it was once thought to be Merlot, but it was later discovered to be its own varietal.

And these Carmenere wines are typically medium-bodied with balanced levels of acidity and soft tannins, and flavors of dark fruits and distinctive notes of smoky green bell pepper.

Where is it Produced?

Chile Wine Regions Map

Carménère wines originated in the Medoc region of Bordeaux, France but are now mainly grown in Chile.

Today, Carmenere has become Chile’s most beloved grape and has quickly emerged as the nation’s “signature” variety. In addition, this varietal is gaining immense popularity in New Zealand, the US, and Italy. Because all these locations have climates that will support the production of Carmenere grapes.

And this late-ripening grape flourishes in warmer regions (good weather) with lower amounts of water, as it requires an extended period of time on the vine to fully ripen given its slow maturation rate. Furthermore, it typically produces a smaller yield compared to Merlot.

History of Carmenere Wine

Carménère was first planted as a noble grape in the famous Bordeaux region of France, but in the 1860s it was wiped out by phylloxera. And thus becoming the lost grape of Bordeaux.

After the grape had been presumed extinct in its native land, the Carmenere plants found their way to Chile, where the grape flourished. And for the first 150 years, Carmenere was mistakenly thought to be Merlot. In fact, it was even called a “Chilean Merlot”.

And it wasn’t until the 1990s that Carmenere was identified as its own variety becoming what is now Chile’s most beloved grape.

Quick Facts

  • Wines labeled Carménère must contain at least 85% Carménère grapes. However, they are normally a blending grape with other grape varieties like Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, and Merlot.
  • Carménère Day is on November 24th! (the day Carmenere was classified as its own grape)
  • Also, contains pyrazine aromas, like many Bordeaux grapes, which create aromas of green bell pepper.
  • And some of the BEST Carmenere wine regions in Chile: Colchagua Valley (Most Popular), Cachapoal Valley (Best for Aging), Maipo Valley (Most Affordable), and Peumo (Best Premium)
  • Surprisingly in 2020 China was the top destination for Chile’s Wine exports.

What Does Carménère Taste Like?

Carmenere Taste Profile

Carmenere wines are most often a medium-bodied, with soft tannins and moderate acidity, dark and red fruit flavors along with herbal and vegetal notes.

And the flavors and aromas typically include red fruits like raspberry, tart cherry, red currant, pomegranate, with earthy flavors of tobacco, green pepper (bell pepper), herbs, spices and smoke. And if used as a blending grape with other varieties, then you can also expect to encounter some dark fruit flavors like blackberries, plums, and black cherries.

Carmenere Wine Food Pairings

Carmenere Food Pairings
  • Roast pork
  • Grilled steak with herb sauces – L’entrecote steak and sauce
  • Indian dishes with mint chutney or cumin spiced
  • Rack of lamb
  • Veggie burgers
  • Roasted chicken or turkey
  • Carnitas tacos
  • Chicken Mole
  • Braised beef stew with root vegetables

8 Best Carmenere Wines Under $30

We independently select and recommend the best products. So when you buy through links on our site, we may earn an affiliate commission. Prices are subject to change by sellers at anytime. 

1) TerraNoble CA2 Costa Carmenère 2018

TerraNoble CA2 Costa Carmenère 2018

This varietal wine has green bell pepper and red fruits on the nose with a velvety mouthfeel and flavors of tart cherry, raspberry, herbs and spices. 

And it has a nice structure of tannins with a medium finish.

2) Marques de Casa Concha Carmenère 2020 (Best Value)

Marques de Casa Concha Carmenère 2020

This delicious wine has great value to it. Because it has aromas of dark fruits, mint, herbs and spices with a medium body and a smooth taste texture. 

Also it finishes with some peppery and smoky notes.

3) Montes Alpha Carmenère 2019

Montes Alpha Carmenère 2019

Another wonderfully priced Carmenere that has intense aromas of ripe black fruits, vanilla, oak, and spices. And it has balanced acidity and soft tannins making it easy to drink. Plus some notes of dark chocolate and pepper on the finish.

4) Los Vascos Cromas Carménère Gran Reserva 2020 (Most Famous)

Los Vascos Cromas Carménère Gran Reserva 2020

Owned by one of the best wineries in the world, Domaines Barons de Rothschild (Lafite), you’d expect a great wine. 

And this Gran Reserva is an exceptional Carmenere that has a complex flavors and a wonderful bouquet of dark fruits, earth, and oak.

5) Lapostolle Grand Selection Carmenère 2018

Lapostolle Grand Selection Carmenère

One of the most well known Chilean wineries in the US market, this well-balanced wine has aromas and flavors of cherry jam, juicy blueberries, oak, tobacco, and hints of smoke and earthy notes.

6) Tarapacá Gran Reserva Carmenère 2019

Tarapacá Gran Reserva Carmenère

Another fantastic wine on this list under $20! 

Because its rich aromas of earth, green bell pepper, black pepper, and notes of dark black fruits. And you will find dry, full-bodied flavors of blackberries, plums, cherries, and vanilla.

7) Perez Cruz Carmenère Limited Edition 2020

Perez Cruz Carmenère Limited Edition

An excellent wine from the Maipo Valley, this bold Carmenere has intense aromatics and flavors of dark fruit, green pepper, herbs, oak, and leather. 

And it has a smooth texture with soft tannins and balanced acidity, along with an earthy finish.

8) Errazuriz Estate Reserva Carmenère 2019

Errazuriz Max Carmenere

Viña Errazuriz is one of the most popular Chilean wineries in the US market. And it’s an estate winery that concentrates on providing quality to every aspect of the winemaking process.

Finally this wine is a good example having a good structure with well-integrated tannins that make it an excellent choice for any Carmenere fan or wine enthusiast.

Related Articles

More Posts

best lunch in napa

12 Best Lunch Spots In Napa

Best Lunch In Napa – Our 12 Favorite Spots! Lunch is a must when you’re out wine tasting! Whether you’re in the mood for a

Böen Pinot Noir

Böen Pinot Noir – WineO Mark Review

Böen Pinot Noir – WineO Mark Review Wine Stats Grape Variety: 100% Pinot Noir Vintage: 2021 ABV: 14.6% Wine Region: California Flavor Profile: Cherry, raspberry, blackberry,