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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  • Snooth User: catador47
    703110 10

    Dear Gregory,

    I been reading you articles for many years and every time you bring a lot of good comments that in my particular opinion help me and a group of friends to learn more and enjoy more our tasting experience.

    However as a Mexican I will like to have your experience in Mexican wines I been hearing that Mexican wines are getting better and better every year and your opinion will be great appreciated by a lover of wine.

    Oct 20, 2014 at 1:02 PM

  • Dear Gregory
    I endorse the above petition about testing Mexican wines, specially those of Baja California. Even though mexicans (as a country) are very low wine consumers (less than 1 bottle a year per capita), there´s a fast growing interest and we are trying and making more wine every day. So your comments will be welcome.

    Oct 20, 2014 at 1:42 PM

  • Snooth User: orquidea
    835510 19

    I love this wine! Excellent!

    Oct 20, 2014 at 3:26 PM

  • Snooth User: rhw168
    635553 144

    Try the 2011 Montes Purple Angel !!!

    To me, this Carménère (92%) / Petit Verdot (8%) blend tastes better than some of the best regarded Oakville Cab / Bordeaux wines.

    Oct 20, 2014 at 4:03 PM

  • Cono Sur (Chile) makes an outstanding Carmenere for $ 7.99 a bottle (in NJ stores). I first heard of it thru a Parker writeup several years back.

    I also would be interested in any Mexican wines, if there are any. I visited Robledo Winery, Sonoma, about 5 or so years ago - great wines and greater story of Mexican immigrant who arrived in late 60's as grape picker and evolved into high quality owner/operator of vineyards and winery.

    Oct 20, 2014 at 4:21 PM

  • Snooth User: Snooth Editorial
    Hand of Snooth
    834647 73,119

    We have heard your request for coverage on Mexican wines! If you know of any Mexican wineries, wine makers, or wine writers, please send that information to submissions@snooth.com.

    Oct 20, 2014 at 9:30 PM

  • Snooth User: dvogler
    Hand of Snooth
    1413489 1,354

    I was trying to get the Purple Angel yesterday at my local store. They had it for quite some time, but are out now! :(

    Oct 20, 2014 at 9:57 PM

  • Snooth User: rhw168
    635553 144


    Sorry to hear that.
    The closest store to Oak Bay that I can find that carries the 2011 Purple Angel is in Seattle (about 180 KM away). Their price is quite decent (compared to what I had paid for it.)


    Oct 20, 2014 at 10:11 PM

  • Snooth User: chef
    1121840 39

    Mexican Wineries:
    L.A. Cetto, Domecq, Santo Tomas on the high volume production end of the spectrum
    Monte Xanic and Chateau Camou
    a number of other, small, boutique wineries

    Oct 21, 2014 at 12:03 AM

  • Snooth User: dvogler
    Hand of Snooth
    1413489 1,354

    Thanks for the effort. I did find on our government liquor store website, that there's a few locations in Vancouver that have it too. At $64, it's cheaper for me to buy it here than in Seattle (exchange rate is about 12% now).

    Oct 21, 2014 at 10:15 AM

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