For Smoked Holiday Ham, Pair With Carménère from Chile

Carménère from Chile with a holiday ham — smoked!

Carménère is the red Bordeaux grape famous for going extinct — and then found flourishing in Chile under the pseudonym of Merlot! It’s hard to imagine how the two could be confused:  if you taste Carménère from Chile, you’d never guess it was Merlot. While both have cherry fruit and herbal notes, Merlot is much more mellow, mild, and smooth while Carménère is more wild and crazy with notes like jalapeño jelly. But everyone figured that was just the influence of the terroir in Chile until  French ampelographer Jean Boursiquot checked out a Chilean vineyard on Nov. 24, 1994 and came to the conclusion that the vines he was seeing had to be Carménère, a grape everyone through wiped out by phylloxera in 1867.

That fateful day that Carménère was rediscovered is now celebrated as Carménère Day every Nov. 24. Here’s our coverage from last year’s Carménère Day2020 when we looked at four different wines paired with grilled lamb.

This year we’re celebrating Carménère Day with three wines. Since Carménère goes well with grilled and smoked meat as well as bacon, we decided to pair these wines with a savory ham we smoked for three hours plus a side of Brussel sprouts cooked in an iron skillet on the grill with pancetta, cranberries, and fresh ginger. This is a great holiday meal as an alternative to turkey! And Carménère is a fun alternative to other red wines.  These wines would work well with grilled beef too.


  • Paprika spiced smoked ham 
  • Grilled Brussels sprouts with pancetta, dried cranberry, and fresh grated ginger
  • Cheesy mashed potatoes
  • Greens with roasted pear

Carménère from Chile

  • 2019 Casillero del Diablo Carménère 
  • 2018 Primus Carménère
  • 2018 Marques de Casa Concha Carménère

Carménère from Casillero del Diablo, Primus, and Concha Y Toro

2019 Casillero del Diablo Carménère 
ABV 13.5%
SRP $12
sample for my review

THE WINERY: To fend off wine thieves in the 1880s, Chilean wine pioneer Don Melchor de Concha y Toro claimed his cellar was haunted hence the name Casillero del Diablo — the cellar of the Devil! Today it’s the #1 Chilean wine brand in the U.S. and in 2020 Wine Enthusiast named Casillero del Diablo New World Winery of the Year. Imported by Fetzer, a B Corp. 

From the D.O. Valle Central this blend of 88% Carmenere and 12% Cabernet Sauvignon spent 10 months partially with oak with 25% new to produce a great wine for the price that’s interesting, and unusual with some very unique characteristics. 

Color: Medium density, ruby red with a hot pink rim.

Aroma: Green, jalapeno jelly, chili verde, lots of green chili, mole, chocolate, chicken enchilada, cinnamon, clove, roasted green chili, Sue loved the nose on this wine.

Palate: Lovely savory notes along with the fruit that makes the wine so fulfilling, cherry, baking spices, very clovey, jalapeno jam, roasted chilies, chocolate mole. Sue loved this wine today, and loved it last time we tasted it as well.

Pairing: Great with the grilled Brussels sprouts; loving the char and the sweet ginger, they are so sweet and delicious together. This is what you want on your holiday table. Very nice with the spicy ham– the spice and the smokiness were spot on with this Carménère. 

Organically grown Carménère from Primus

2018 Primus Carménère 
ABV 14%
SRP $19
sample for my review

THE WINERY: Founded over 20 years ago as a pioneering brand in blending, Primus farms using organic practices. Forests surround the vineyards located on well drained loam clay soils where the Andes and the coastal ranges meet. The wine spent 12 months in barrel with 12% new French oak. 

Color: Nicely dense, ruby with a garnet rim.

Aroma: Mud, clay, earth, river moss, river bank, cherry cola, green bean. As it opens up there is a bit of potpourri and more cherry fruit. 

Palate: Cherry, big bold tannins, jalapeno jelly, camphor or menthol finish. This is not a cocktail wine, but I liked it better the longer it is in my glass.

Pairing: This Carménère is so much better with food than on its own, however, not necessarily this menu. It’s fine with the Brussels sprouts, but this ham is a bit too sweet for the wine. Sue felt that this Carménère was craving a Tri-Tip, or BBQ ribs that are spicy rather than sweet. The wine loved the salty cheese potatoes. Serve with a cheese enchilada or quesadilla. 

Carménère from Marques de Casa Concha

2018 Concha y Toro “Marques de Casa Concha” Carménère  
ABV 14.5%
SRP $22
sample for my review

THE WINERY: With a title dating back to 1718, winery founder Melchor Concha y Toro was the seventh Marquis of Casa Concha. Marques de Casa Concha label honors this heritage.
From the Peumo Vineyard in D.O. Peumo located in the Cachapoal Valley, comes this blend from 25 year old vines of  94.67% Carmenere, 5% Cabernet Sauvignon, 0.33% Cabernet Franc that was aged for 12 months in 100% French oak with 26% new and 74% second use. Imported by Fetzer, a B Corp. 

Color: Deep ruby, nice density, nice legs, mauve rim.

Aroma: Cherry, earthy, herbal, vegetal, cherry ricola. 

Palate: Tart cherry fruit, very dry, smooth, nicely balanced tannins, very subdued tannins, nicely satisfying finish. I really liked this wine!  

Pairing: With food this Carménère becomes so much more fruity; there is a plushness that comes out with food on the plate. Fantastic with the spiced ham and Brussels sprouts. The smoky richness of both the Carménère and the food go so very well together. 

For more Carménère Day coverage, check this out. May we inspire you to check out Carménère! Happy Carménère Day! 


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