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While considered Chile’s national grape today – because nearly 28,000 acres alone are planted in the country’ Colchagua Valley – this red wine grape actually traces back to Bordeaux and is among the six grapes of Bordeaux (others are Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Petit Verdot, Malbec, and Merlot).

However, Carmenère was decimated after phylloxera hit the region in the late 1800s, threatening to wipe out the entire country’s vines. Carmenère then experienced a resurgence in Chile nearly a century later simply because the disease never got there. The grape thrives in Chile due to its long growing season, perfect for coaxing this grape into full ripening.

Carmenère’s notes are intense berries along with coffee and chocolate, as well as leather, smoke, and tobacco. It’s a perfect pairing with Spanish paella, grilled vegetables or steak, as well as game meats. Outside of Chile, the grape can also be found in California, Washington and Italy.

Quick Facts

  • Carmenère is thought to be a clone of Cabernet Sauvignon
  • About 80 percent of the world’s plantings of Carmenère are in Chili
  • Carmenère is one of the few, if not the only, wine grapes with a holiday: International Carmenère Day is celebrated every November 24th

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