Within my first 24 hours of arriving in Santiago, I was exposed to a new grape that I had never sampled before. Carménère captivated me instantly due to the unique origins it possessed from France. Originally from the Médoc Region of Bordeaux, France, Carménère, became almost extinct in France after the Phylloxera Plague in 1867. However, due to the similarity that Carménère possessed to Merlot, many wine growers who imported grapes from Bordeaux to Chile in the 19th century confused the two grapes. As a result, both grape varieties were planted around Santiago.
Due to the limited rainfall in Santiago, Merlot (Carménère in disguise) thrived and became a powerhouse for Chilean wine growers. When wine growers were trying to figure out why their "Merlot" grapes were slightly modified, researchers began to test the grapes. It was not until 1994 that a researcher discovered that the Chileans had accidentally preserved Carménère from the Phylloxera Plague in France for over a century! History aside, for those of you that have the ability to appreciate a red grape, I highly recommend that you find Carménère in your local grocery store wherever you reside. The wine is absolutely incredible and I find myself periodically laughing at its mysterious history! Cheers!