Featured Grape: Carménère

This month we’re taking a closer look at the red grape, Carménère. Those of us who love savory things and yearn for wines outside of the “fruit-bomb” spectrum will love what Carménère has to offer. Carménère is found mostly in Chile, is related to Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, and has a higher prevalence of a special aromatic compound (Pyrazine), which adds a unique herbaceous quality to the taste.

Carmenere taste profile illustration by Wine Folly

You probably noticed in the infographic above that Carménère is often noted for having flavors of green bell pepper. The smell is derived from aroma compounds referred to as pyrazines which are prevalent in just a few wines (primarily the “Bordeaux” varieties). Pyrazine can display itself in the flavor of wine in a great many ways:

One of the key aromatic compound groups in Carmenere are methoxypyrazines. They can smell like green bell pepper, mint, peppercorns, or cocoa powder.

Pyrazines in wine are called “impact compounds” because they’re associated with specific grapes (Bordeaux varieties). Learn more.

Cabernet Franc, Carmenere and Sauvignon Blanc Illustration by Wine Folly

Try it Yourself

If you’re interested in improving your nose and ability to blind taste wine, you can create your own tasting to practice identifying this flavor. There are three wines which have exceptionally high levels of this compound, and they include Carménère, Cabernet Franc and Sauvignon Blanc!

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About Madeline Puckette

James Beard Award-winning author and Wine Communicator of the Year. I co-founded Wine Folly to help people learn about wine. @WineFolly