Carma comes from a prominent estate vineyard in Palmilla, an area of Colchagua Valley renowned for the production of Carménère. In the Palmilla sector of Colchagua, Chile’s most notable variety ripens to perfection. The summer days are hot and sunny, while the nights are exceptionally cool – the ideal scenario for Carménère. The tremendous daily swings between high daytime and low nighttime temperatures afford Carménère an exceedingly long hang time, and impart to the resulting wine a profound aromatic profile, exceptional flavor, and ripe, racy tannin. No wonder Carménère is quickly becoming one of the world’s most sought after wines.
Belonging to the Cabernet family, Carménère is one of six permitted varietals for red wine in its native Bordeaux. Nevertheless, Carménère is relatively rare today in Bordeaux where it is typically used only in small amounts, if at all, by most châteaux. During the phylloxera infestation of the mid-1800s, Carménère vines were hit especially hard and the varietal was nearly wiped out. Consequently, as the vineyards of Bordeaux were replanted in the late 19th century, Carménère was largely forsaken in favor of varietals that produced higher, more consistent yields and were less prone to disease. Luckily for Carménère, it had for many years enjoyed the good fortune of being mistaken for both Merlot and Cabernet Franc, leading to its unintentional importation to other countries.
Carménère traveled to Italy, New Zealand, and most notably to Chile prior to the Bordeaux phylloxera outbreak of the mid-1800s, when Carménère cuttings were believed to be Merlot. Only in the 1990s were these “Merlot” vines discovered to be, in fact, Carménère. Chile is now the largest producer of Carménère wines worldwide, and the grape is used in blends and bottled as a pure varietal wine, the latter being quite a departure from its traditional role in Bordeaux. Fortunately for Carménère as well as for consumers, the warmer, drier climate of Chile is much more favorable to the healthy growth and production of Carménère, which when handled properly produces wines with intense red fruit, earth, smoke, and spice flavors, than its native Bordeaux ever was. Moreover, Carménère’s tannins are softer than those of Cabernet Sauvignon, making it easier to drink and enjoy in its youth and a great companion to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot in meritage blends.