This week just might mark a seminal event in my personal wine journey. Either that, or a huge, disappointing wine bust served up on a bed of bell pepper and pine needles.
On November 4th, I’ll be taking part with a small group of bloggers in an on-line tasting event with Wines of Chile, the theme of which is “Discover Carmenere: The Lost Grape.” Why is this a boom-or-bust wine moment for me? Because I have what I would call a troubled relationship with Carmenere.
Of course, I love the idea of this grape, the story of Carmenere – it’s the stuff of which wine legends are made.
Carmenere was born in Bordeaux, and thought to be extinct after outbreaks of oidium and then the Phylloxera epidemic in the 1800s, which wiped out a good portion of the wine grape vineyards of Europe. Though widely thought to be able to help produce high quality wines, Carmenere was pretty much abandoned in France in favor of varieties that were less susceptible to disease, ripened more consistently and produced better yields. But, Carmenere was not dead – plantings were transported, from France to South America, along with vineyard workers looking for more gainful employment at the time (just prior to the Phylloxera outbreak). For almost one hundred years, the vine thrived in Chile and was thought to be Merlot; it was discovered to in the mid 1990s to actually be the ‘lost grape’ – Carmenere.
So now we have a legendary Bordeaux grape long considered extinct, thriving in the New Wine World and growing on its own, ungrafted rootstock. The modern wine Coelacanth. The Grape from The Land of The Lost (Sleestaks sold separately).
So what’s the trouble? Well, in my experience, the tale spun about the lost grape Carmenere is a lot more compelling than the wine that Carmenere is actually producing…