The Rediscovery of Carménère
When the first hectares of Merlot were planted in 1971, no one suspected that among them lay hidden a variety that was unknown at the time—Carménère. It was not until 1991 that the variety was identified, and it was only in 1994 that its existence was officially established when a significant number of Carménère vines were identified on the land surrounding the large estate house, particularly in blocks 4 and 5, where the variety grew alongside Merlot vines.
The Carménère variety is recognized as the most complicated to handle in terms of ripening. Originally from the Médoc zone of Bordeaux, France, it was abandoned after the vines were devastated by phylloxera, a disease that ravaged Europe's vineyards between 1860 and 1870.
Years before that crisis, however, some Carménère vines had been brought to Chile without being identified as such and planted alongside Cabernet Sauvignon and especially Merlot.
The vines remained unidentified until 1991, when French ampelographer Claude Vallat pointed out that some Chilean Merlot was not Merlot at all, but he was not able to identify what variety it actually was.
Finally, in 1994, Vallat's colleague Jean- Michel Boursiquot was able to determine that some varieties of Chilean Merlot were actually the long-forgotten Carménère, which had all but disappeared from Europe.
Boursiquot's investigation began in the Maipo Valley and then focused on Maule. His tour of several wineries in the zone included a visit to San Vicente, where he recognized a significant number of Carménère vines that had been planted in blocks 4 and 5 alongside Merlot in 1974.
The quality of fruit produced by these much sought-after vines is widely recognized, and today that fruit provides the raw material that gives rise to the best wines of San Vicente. Thus, Carménère is not only the emblematic Chilean wine variety but is also the distinctive icon of Viñedos San Vicente.
Other Facts of Interest:
Latitude 35º25`49.56"S, Longitude 71º30`11.61"O
Talca Series, brown clay-loam soil of moderate depth (70 cm) overlying rounded gravel and clay.
Daily temperature oscillation during the ripening period:
Minimum 11°C, Maximum 34°C.