Chilly weather: Check. Cozy gatherings with friends: Check. Same old wine: Not so fast. Before you reach for your go-to red this winter, consider Chile’s answer to the season’s most toast-worthy pours: crimson-hued Carmenere (car-men-air).
The signature red grape of Chile delivers luscious dark fruit — think blackcurrant, wild blueberry and ripe plum — wrapped in supple tannins, brilliant acidity and silken texture. When shared with even the most wine-savvy host, Carmenere offers an opportunity for discovery beyond the usual pour.
Born in the famed vineyards of Bordeaux, France, Carmenere was thought to be extinct in the late 1860s. Half a world away, in a grand case of mistaken identity, experts discovered 130 years later that much of what was assumed to be Merlot in Chile was actually Carmenere — hiding in plain sight. It quickly became a favorite among Chileans for its inviting style, and today, Carmenere is to Chile what Malbec is to Argentina. Somewhere between the moderate structure of a Pinot Noir and the layered complexity of a Cabernet Sauvignon lies your new favorite red.
Chilean Winemaker Marcio Ramírez — affectionately dubbed “Mr. Carmenere” by colleagues, thanks to his 20-plus years spent mastering the variety — is a Carmenere craftsman to keep your eye on. Here are three wines, all made by Ramírez and awarded scores of 90 points or higher by top wine critics, that you should be drinking this winter, perhaps après ski or any time a delicious glass of red fits the bill:
2017 Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Carmenere
From Puemo Vineyard in Cachapoal Valley, the 2017 vintage of Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Carmenere doesn’t disappoint with heady aromas of cherry, blackcurrant and blackberry, framed by a thread of cedar and white pepper. Pair it with smoked meats or a strong aged cheese, like Gorgonzola. 90 points, Wine & Spirits
2017 Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere
Also from Puemo Vineyard, the 2017 Marques de Casa Concha Carmenere is an elevated selection with a generous palate of ripe plum, blackcurrant and dark chocolate. Pronounced acidity makes it a versatile pairing for roasted lamb or pasta. 91 points, James Suckling
2017 Terrunyo Carmenere
The crown jewel of Ramírez’s Carmenere offerings from Puemo Vineyard, the 2017 Terrunyo Carmenere boasts an impressive structure, with inviting notes of wild berries, cedar and violet. Supple tannins and excellent acidity make this equally suited for spicy fare or rich risotto. 91 points, Wine Spectator
As you consider the wine options this winter, skip the expected choice, and instead grab a bottle from Chile. Whether you’re roasting marshmallows, sitting down to a four-course meal or heading to a cocktail party, Carmenere may be the best red wine you haven’t yet tried. Discover (and share) it all winter long.