Three Expressions of Carmenere from Concha y Toro

These days, Carmenere is a varietal wine most closely associated with Chile. But that is a relatively recent development — within the last 20 years. Lucky for those of us who enjoy Carmenere, viticulturists brought cuttings to Chile from France before the phylloxera epidemic of the 1860s all but destroyed the variety in its native Bordeaux. Because Carmenere can be difficult to grow and fully ripen in Bordeaux, after the phylloxera epidemic it was not widely replanted. As a result, Chile is home to the vast majority of Carmenere plantings worldwide.

Many of the plantings in Chile were originally thought to be Merlot. It was not until 1994 that French ampelographer, Jean-Michel Boursiquot discovered they were actually Carmenere. The leaf pattern didn’t look quite right for Merlot, the grapes ripened much later than expected for Merlot and the foliage turned bright red at harvest. All are more characteristic of Carmenere, and the identity was confirmed by DNA analysis in 1997 according to Jancis Robinson in Wine Grapes.

Carmenere has found a happy home in Chile where it thrives in a warmer and drier climate. According to Amanda Barnes for Wines of Chile, “The heartland for Chile’s best Carmenere is the central valley – from Aconcagua through Maipo and down to Cachapoal and Colchagua.”

As luck would have it, we recently received three Carmeneres from Chilean producer Concha y Toro as tasting samples — and just in time for World Carmenere Day, November 24. We decided to plan a meal with friends to enjoy these three expressions of Carmenere.

Lamb-stewBecause of Carmenere’s French origin, I reached for one of my favorite French cookbooks, around my french table by Dorie Greenspan. I decided to prepare Navarin Printanier, a lamb stew which includes sautéed carrots, turnips and small white onions along with red-skinned potatoes and peas. We just added sweet French bread and butter for a simple, warming and hearty meal.

Casillero-del-Diablo-Carmenere2013 Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Reserva Carmeneredeep ruby in the glass with generous aromas of chocolate, crushed flower stems and red fruit. Blackberry flavors, peppery spice and dried hay in the background combine with smooth tannins for a lively glass of wine. 13.5% abv. SRP $11.

Ample fruit flavors and smooth tannins are a winning combination in this wine. It will appeal to a wide variety of wine drinkers and its relatively low alcohol means it is food friendly as well.


Gran-Reserva-Carmenere2013 Concha y Toro Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Carmeneredark ruby-violet color in the glass. Perfumed, dark fruit aromas are followed by dark, rich fruit flavors combined with tart red fruit, hints of smoke, earth and tobacco. Tannins are a bit drying and smooth. Interesting and complex. 13.5% abv. SRP $17.

The Serie Riberas (Riverbank Series) of wines are single-vineyard wines grown along one of Chile’s major rivers — the Rapel, Cachapoal and Tinguirica. There are five wines in the series. This wine is sourced from the Peumo Vineyard which is D.O. Peumo designated, and located along the banks of the Cachapoal River in the Cachapoal Valley. The wine is aged for 11 months in 60% French and 40% American oak.

Marques-de-Casa-Concha-Carmenere2012 Concha y Toro Marqués de Casa Concha Carmeneredense violet in the glass with aromas of red fruit, black tea and hints of smoke. Red fruit flavors, along with plums, tobacco, black tea and smoke combine with drying tannins and juicy acidity. Lots of lovely flavor with delicate tannins. 14% abv. SRP 25.

Also sourced from the Peumo Vineyard, this wine is aged a bit longer, 18 months, entirely in French oak.

These three Carmeneres show an interesting progression of density, flavor and complexity and with prices between $11 and $25, they are perfect for everything to a weeknight dinner to an evening spent with friends— as we discovered. All three wines paired beautifully with the lamb stew.

If you’re feeling devilish, pair the Concha y Toro Casillero del Diablo Reserva Carmenere with sausage pizza. Both the Concha y Toro Gran Reserva Serie Riberas Carmenere and  Concha y Toro Marqués de Casa Concha Carmenere would be delicious with braised short ribs or a variety of stews. Come to think of it,  a roaring fire after dinner would do nicely as well.

Thanks to Creative Palate Communications and Concha y Toro for the wine samples and the inspiration for this delicious food and wine pairing. It was an excellent reminder of just how delicious and versatile Carmenere is. Perfect for this time of year, whether for an everyday meal or a holiday celebration. Thanksgiving is, after all, just a few days away.



  1. Great article. Not seen the second two in the UK before but I’m definitely going to search them out. Also, I always love to see wine matches with pizza – the reality of what we often eat on a Friday night!!

    • Thanks, Helen. Making pizza is so simple and delicious. The variations are endless. We do so often.

      I hope you can find the Concha y Toro wines. They are worth looking for. It is interesting to see the difference in import/distribution of wines in various countries. I, too, have read about wines available elsewhere and been unable to find them at home. Good luck in your search! Cheers.

  2. Well I’ve just learned about a new grape – the Carmenere – through your post! I hadn’t heard of this variety before, but with flavours of blackberry and pepper, it sounds right up my alley. I hope I have the opportunity to try it. Great post! Feel free to share it, or any other wine related posts on my monthly #WINENOT blog post sharing service. Cheers, Louise @

    • Hi Louise. Carmenere is worth looking for. Delicious variety. Thanks for reading and for the invite to post on your sharing service. I’ll do so. Cheers!