This red wine grape is at least as interesting for its history as it is for its quality.
Carménère once vied with Cabernet Sauvignon for quality in France’s Bordeaux region. But when the root louse phylloxera swept through France’s vineyards in the late 1800s, Carménère didn’t take well to grafted rootstock and was thought lost to history.
However, before phylloxera, some supposedly Merlot vines from Bordeaux were planted in Chile. At least, it was thought to be Merlot. More than a century later in the 1990s, it was discovered that much of Chile’s Merlot actually was Carménère, and now other areas of the New World are discovering it.
In the Northwest, small amounts are planted in Washington/Oregon’s Walla Walla Valley, and the resulting wines are fantastic. Look for this grape to gain a cult following among wine lovers in the know.