Carménère: Rediscovered 25 Years Ago Today in Chile #CarménèreDay

In 2009, a friend and I decided it would be fun to buy $200 worth of wine from that year’s Wine Spectator Top 100 list. We each spent about $100 and we took home the bottles we bought but committed to tasting them together with a few other wine friends. But then between his wife trying to get pregnant and my husband breaking his neck, followed by my friend having a number of tragic losses — and he quit drinking after drinking his share of the wines…

I didn’t drink mine: I purposely stored them in a remote corner of my basement cellar.

At the time all I knew about most of the wines is that they were on this list and the Ventura Wine Store or Vons had a bottle that we could buy so we did.

Which is how in 2019 I came to have a bottle of the 2006  Concha y Toro – Terrunyo – Carménère Block 27.

Easy to see how these two could be confused for a hundred years or so because they look so much alike…

At the time I had no idea that 25 years ago, on November 24, a guy from France took a look at the unusual merlot planted in Chile and proclaimed that it was actually Carménère, a grape that everyone thought was wiped out in Europe– and the world– from phylloxera disease in the 1860s.

Thank goodness! Because today, 25 years later, Carménère has experienced a resurgence, especially in Chile where Concha y Toro has nurtured it.

This is partly due to the dedication of “Mr. Carménère” aka Concha y Toro Carménère winemaker Marrio Ramirez who has worked with Carménère for 22 years: “These vines are like a family to me,” he says. Concha y Toro’s Carménère comes for the Peumo Valley, 170 meters above sea level, where Rapel Lake and the Cachapoal River benefit the viticulture..

In honor of the anniversary of Carménère’s rediscovery, we opened the storied bottle of the 2006 alongside a sample of Concha y Toro’s Marques Casa Concha. To round out the tasting, we also opened a bottle of Terrunyo Sauvignon Blanc.

To come up with our menu, I looked back at our tasting notes and saw that while Carménère was mistaken for Merlot for over 100 years, our Carménère notes are similar to our notes about cabernet franc, so I turned to previous cab franc as well as Carménère posts for ideas. This one from Cab Franc Day in 2016 sounded perfect for a fall meal so I suggested that Sue make osso bucco and squash spinach gratin, two dishes that we know pair well with cabernet franc. Bonus: the post included the recipes! We added a gremalata, plus a caesar salad, oysters, and goat cheese to go with the sauvignon blanc. Sue, Gretel Mays Compton, and I tasted through the wines, then paired them.


2016 Concha y Toro – Terrunyo – Sauvignon Blanc – Block 5 –
13% alcohol – $36
D.O Casablanca, Casablanca Valley – Chile
Costa – Los Boldos Vineyard

Color: Pale, platinum rim; the light from the chandelier sparkles in the glass.

Nose: Vegetal, jalapeño peppers, jalapeño jam.

Palate: The vegetal notes come across on the palate as well, plus gooseberries, lemons, grass, nice lively acidity with balance, fruit, and a lingering finish.  We three really liked this wine.

Pairing: No surprise, it’s lovely with fresh goat cheese on a baguette fresh from the oven. Absolutely wonderful with the Langres that Gretel found at Trader Joe’s. There is such a beautiful funky yumminess when the two are paired together.

The ocean in the oyster powerfully washes away the vegetal, grassy notes in the wine leaving it fruity and mild. with a long lingering finish. This is my new favorite oyster wine!!

Sauvignon blanc does well with lemony citrus and briny fish, so it’s a great pairing with caesar salad. The SB responds to the salad by adding a bit of fruit to the bite. This would be a great wine by the glass at a restaurant for a starter course, and a great seafood, or fish wine. Great with the capers. With the Ceasar salad, the jalapeño jelly comes forward but also marries well with the flavors in the salad, leaving lovely fruity, herbal, saline flavors in your mouth.

2017 Concha y Toro –  Marques de Casa Concha – Carménère – D.O.Peumo – Chile –
14.5% alcohol SRP $25
90% Carménère, 10% Cabernet Sauvignon 

Color: Maroon, pretty dense, mauve on the rim.

Nose: Nicely herbal, with rich cherry fruit, mint and eucalyptus, bell pepper, jalapeño pepper, a nice smokey quality as well.

Palate: Sue thought this was a very fruit forward wine. Juicy and luscious, the cherry jumped out at her. It also offers cherry cola, vanilla, pipe tobacco. In the right glass this is a very satisfying wine.

Pairing: So beautiful with the squash gratin. We liked this wine with the evening’s menu: the rich root veggies, the creamy polenta and the rich osso bucco. The gremolata on top of the osso bucco was brilliant. This is a great young wine and for $25 it really packs a punch.

2006  Concha y Toro – Terrunyo – Carménère Block 27 –
14% SRP 2017 $40

When I read reviews that suggested drinking this wine by 2011, and that Wikipedia says Carménère is best to drink while young, I was worried about this bottle of Terrunyo to be past its prime.

I know now that a well cellared Terrunyo Carménère has a long life! I would definitely consider laying down a bottle for ten years. It was just FANTASTIC! While Concha y Toro says the 2017 has an aging potential until 2028, and certainly as the 2006 indicates, the wine could cellar longer.

Color: So dense and dark, deep plum, there is a bit of a tawny rim, but it is still a bright beautiful color for how old the vintage.

Nose: Chocolate geranium, encelia (a local coastal flower in the sunflower family), bee pollen, fig, leather.

Palate: Super smooth, with a salivating finish. Integrated tannins, very well balanced, there is a slight bit of oxidation, which is not a fault, but we felt that it shouldn’t lay down much longer.

Pairing: As much as we were excited about this wine, we really didn’t want to pair it with food, instead we just wanted to hang out with it for a while. That being said: This is beautiful with the squash spinach gratin. Sue liked the pairing better than I did: for me it tended to bring out the pyroxenes — the flavors that Sue just loves and I don’t necessarily care for. With the osso bucco it loves the gremolata, the polenta, the combination of flavors: it flat out loves this wine. The gravy in the osso busco brings out a lovely fruit.

At the end of the evening, the 2007 Terrunyo was fading. If you have a bottle in your cellar, drink it now and drink it all in one evening if you can.

“Share it with friends, drink it down and enjoy!” said Gretel as we were talking about the wines at the end of the evening.

But there was one glass left so I had it the next evening: surprisingly, it was vibrant and wonderful especially paired with leftovers!!



Looking forward to next year’s #CarménèreDay!

In the meantime, you should be able to find these recent releases from Concha y Toro!!

2 thoughts on “Carménère: Rediscovered 25 Years Ago Today in Chile #CarménèreDay

Please Comment! I'd love to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s