The grape variety thought extinct celebrates the 28th anniversary since its rediscovery

24 de November de 2022

This highly relevant event for the world wine sector has Carmen, the first Chilean winery, as its main protagonist, since it is the place where Carménère was found.

For many years, it was believed that Carménère, native to the Bordeaux region of France, had become extinct due to a plague called Phyloxera that wiped out all the vines of this variety during the 19th century.

However, this was not the end of Carménère, since French immigrants brought the variety to Chile to produce it in their new land. The grape had been planted in the wine-growing regions of the country for almost a century and a half. They did not know exactly what Carménère was and mistook it for Merlot.

More than 135 years passed until, in 1994, the French ampelographer, Jean Michel Boursiquot, walking through the Viña Carmen´s vineyards, in the Maipo Valley, realize a small detail in some Merlot vines; a twisted yarn and after some DNA tests it was revealed that these vines were actually the extinct Carménère variety. Later, Viña Carmen was the first winery that began to label wines under “Grand Vidure”, a synonym for this variety used in Bordeaux in the 19th century.

The rediscovery was an oenological event of great relevance in the world, establishing a great milestone for the wine sector, which is why, since 2014, the Chilean wine industry decided to promote the World Carménère Day, inviting all wine lovers to celebrate this date that became an important opportunity for differentiation and development of a forgotten variety in the world.

“Carménère´s Day gives visibility to a grape that is extremely important for Chile and its particular history that has Viña Carmen as the protagonist. These 28 years have been key to fully understanding this variety, which has allowed Chile to be recognized worldwide for the quality and character of these wines,” said Carmen’s winemaker, Pablo Prieto.

The numbers behind Carménère

Chile is positioned as the country with the largest Carménère production in the world, with a planted area of ​​10.837 hectares, which represents a growth of 14% in 10 years, positioning itself as the fifth most planted variety in the country. The largest territorial concentration dedicated to the cultivation of this grape is found in the central valleys of Chile, especially in the O’Higgins, Maule and Metropolitan regions.