Which grape went extinct in France from phylloxera in 1876 only to be found flourishing in Chile where everyone thought it was merlot? If you answered Carménère, you are correct! Like Merlot, Carménère from Chile has cherry fruit and herbal notes, but that’s where the similarities end. Turns out it wasn’t the terroir that made Carménère from Chile so distinct: checking out a Chilean vineyard, French ampelographer Jean Boursiquot decided on Nov. 24, 1994 that these vines were actually Carménère! We celebrate November 24 now as Carménère’s re-birthday. And you’re invited to join our party!
Since Carménère Day lands on or close to Thanksgiving in the US, it’s a great opportunity to enjoy this grape with hearty, rich, and festive fall foods like smoked ham and roasted stuffed vegetables.
- Since Carménère works well with grilled and smoked meat as well as bacon, in 2021 we paired three Carménère wines with a paprika spiced smoked ham (read about it here), plus Brussel sprouts and pancetta.
- For Carménère Day in 2020 we paired four different Carménère with grilled lamb.
- In 2019 and in 2016, we paired instant pot osso bucco and a squash gratin with Carménère (read more here and find the recipe too).
This year, we decided to focus on hearty vegetarian choices, but since my spouse smoked a ham, of course we’ll have some of that as well!
Stuffed portabellas, bell pepper, butternut squash
Carménère from Chile
2018 TerraNoble Carménère Gran Reserva, Valle de Maule
2020 Veramonte Carménère, Valle de Colchauga
These two wines are a study in contrasts: they come from two of the three main wine growing regions in Chile, from two vintages, and one is certified organic.
Some 80 miles south of Santiago, Colchagua Valley is located between the ranges: the Andes and the Coast Range. Marked by the weaving of the Tinguinirica River which starts at 2,000′ elevation in a volcanic crater near the edge of the Andes, as it descends, soils shift from graveled, alluvial terraces to rich clay deposited by the meanders of the river. Closer to the Andes, soils are colluvial and temperatures cold while closer to the Coast Range soils are granite-based hills and temperatures are warmer.
Further south is Maule Valley, located about155 miles south of Santiago, part of the Central Valley region, and one of the largest winegrowing areas in Chile with over 5000 acres of Camrmenere. Distinct microclimates ideal for the aromatic and spicy Carménère abound. While there is also a range of soils, volcanic soils predominate.
2020 Veramonte Organic Carménère
Made with organic grapes grown in the Colchauga Valley.
Appearance: Very dense and dark, ruby to maroon, bright pink rim
Aroma: Plum, bell pepper, Japanese salted plums, spicy, pink peppercorns, ponzu, John found leather and pine,
Palate: Plum, plum pipe tobacco, tart cherry, dry woody finish, tannins are very present, leathery aspect on the palate, The palate is very similar to the nose.
Pairing: Food balances out the fruitiness in the wine. It loves the smoky fat in the ham;. The herbal pesto and zucchini stuffing in the bell peppers works very nicely with the wine. The sweet creamy herbaceous stuffed squash was fantastic with the wine. Food brings the wine into balance. If there were any sharp edges in the wine they are balanced and tamed with the meal. The ham was not our favorite pairing. It brought out all of the characteristics in the wine that we were not too fond of. It enhances the tobacco and woody leathery characteristics in the wine.
2018 Terranoble Carménère Gran Reserva
With this elegant label and bottle, this wine would look very nice on a dinner table without breaking the budget. These Carménère grapes were grown in the Valle del Maule.
Appearance: Deep and dense, ruby to plum bright pink rim
Aroma: Woody, sandalwood, baking spices, plum,
Palate: Balanced tannins, fruit forward without being sweet, tart cherry, Santa Rosa plum, clean dried cherry finish, cocoa powder, nicely structured, well crafted, balanced nicely integrated oak.
Pairing: The stuffed squash was so nice with the wine. The Italian sausage in the stuffed squash brings out sweet fruit in the wine. The wine also went so much better with the ham than the Vermonte was. It loved the smokey richness of the ham bringing out the lovely fruit in the wine and the subtle nuances of both. The stuffed mushrooms were alright but the stuffed bell peppers and stuffed squash were the stars of the show with the wine.
On another occasion, we tasted a range of TerraNoble Carménère grown at different locations, elevations, and vintages which I later paired with a grilled steak, corn, squash, and baked potato. I thought I had published this awhile ago but found it in my drafts so I’m sharing these notes and photos now.
Learn more about Terranoble Carménère in this video from their importer, Winebow:
2017 TerraNoble Gran Reserva Carmenere SRP $19
2016 TerraNoble CA1 (Carmenere Andes) SRP $25
2017 TerraNoble CA1 (Carmenere Andes) SRP $25
2017 TerraNoble CA2 (Carmenere Costa) SRP $25
2017 TerraNoble Gran Reserva Carmenere
sample for my ZOOM participation
Color: Very dense, ruby, fuchsia rim
Nose: Bell pepper, euctalyptus, cherry, cedar; as it opens up there is a woody warmth to the wine
Palate: Very fruit forward, cherry, silky quality, smooth tannins for such a young wine. Mint, sage, cocoa, cocoa powder, I would love to revisit this wine in a couple of years to see if it can hang on to its brightness or whether the fruit will take over and just become blah.
These two vintages could not be more different! Amazing.
2016 TerraNoble CA1 (Carmenere Andes)
Color: Very dense, dark red, ruby
Nose: Cherry fruit, menthol, cherry ricola
Palate: The cherry mint comes through on the palate as well, fresh clean tannic yet smooth, like a tango.
Pairing:This would be really nice with seared ahi tuna, or a sundried tomato bruschetta.
2017 TerraNoble CA1 (Carmenere Andes)
sample for my ZOOM participation
Color: Dense dark, medium plus, ruby
Nose: Sue got dry pine forest, I got more vegetal qualities, subtle cherry; pine, sage, bell pepper is what shines here.
Palate: Clean, balanced, more like a ballet dancer, smooth and refined, the fruit is there but does not take over, there is a freshness on the palate, minty freshness. Sue preferred this wine to the 2016, but she loves that vegetal quality in wines.
2017 TerraNoble CA2 (Carmenere Costa)
Color: Very dense plum with a ruby rim
Nose: Big bold vegetal, bell pepper, jalapeño pepper, sage, eucalyptus, forest floor, loamy soil,
Palate: Very vegetal on the palate as well, a bit of black pepper, there is a bit of mouthwatering acidity, the tannins are similar, but the acidity is higher. Maybe because it is closer to the coast.
Read about the 2018 TerraNoble Gran Reserva Carignan here.
Happy Carménère Day!