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Carménère, the “lost grape of Bordeaux.” March 9, 2009

Posted by t-maker in History, Miscellaneous.
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Carménère is a red wine made from the Carménère grape which is a member of the Cabernet family of grapes. The Carménère wine has a deep red color and its name originates from the word carmine [French carmin, from Medieval Latin carminium]. It is one of the most ancient European varieties and there have been suggestions that Carménère may be Biturica, a vine rated highly in ancient Rome and also the name by which the city of Bordeaux was known during that era.

Carmenere wine

There is incredible lost-and-found story connected with the Carménère. The Carménère grape has known origins in the Médoc region of Bordeaux, France. But in 1867 the infestation of Phylloxera nearly destroyed all the vineyards of Europe, afflicting the Carménère grapevines in particular. For many years the grape was supposed to be extinct.

However, prior to a Phylloxera plague, in the 1850s, the Carménère wine grape was imported from Bordeaux to Chile. Thanks to country’s minimal rainfall during the growing season and the protection of its natural boundaries from pests, the wine grape survived there. But in Chile the Carménère grape was confused with Merlot and considered as its clone. It was known as Merlot selection or Merlot Peumal (after the Peumo Valley in Chile). Only in 1994 Prof. J.-M. Boursiquot from the Montpellier’s school of Oenology confirmed that a vine which was collected and processed together with Merlot grapes during most of the 20th century (giving Chilean Merlot notably different properties to that of Merlot wine produced elsewhere), was Bordeaux Carménère, not Merlot. In 1998 the Carménère was recognized as a distinct variety by the Chilean Department of Agriculture. Chile produces the vast majority of Carménère wines available today.


1. Carménère – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

2. Professional Friends of Wine, Grape Profiles, Carmenere, by Ray Krause and Jim LaMar

3. Carmenere, The Bordeaux of Chile. How this Chilean Wine Varietal Regained its Foothold by Sara Churchville

4. Apéritif – Anthony J. Hawkins WINEGRAPE GLOSSARY

5. Luxury Experience – Carmenere Tasting Seminar