Carmenère is something of a Marmite wine. It has a leafy, herbal note that some people don’t like, especially in red wines, but I’ve always liked a fresh, sweet green element (if green sweetness doesn’t sound too contradictory) as long as it’s more like freshly picked bay leaves than green capsicum and, more importantly, as long it doesn’t dominate. In the case of Carmenère, the signature flavours include plummy, ripe, blackberryish fruit, a savoury, smoky soy-sauce character and suggestions of coffee and chocolate – all of which I find, together with complementary smoky oak, in this example made by the Chilean giant Concha Y Toro from vineyards in the heart of the Peumo region in the Cachapoal Valley.
It goes well with lamb, sausages including duck sausage, other grilled/roast/barbecued meats, including with Middle Eastern spice mixes, and also, partly thanks to the leafy freshness and soy-sauce character, with roast vegetables, caponata and ratatouille. I have yet to try it with Marmite. 13.5%.
Pub quiz facts: Carmenère was widely planted in Bordeaux in the nineteenth century, but France now has very little. Chile (where it often goes without the accent) has way more than any other country, but until 1998 it wasn’t a recognised grape variety there because it had been misidentified as Merlot. A similar case of mistaken identity means that in northeast Italy most of the Carmenère is labelled Cabernet Franc.
Finest Peumo Carmenere, Valle del Cachapoal, Chile