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Carmenere a Focus at a Conference on the Anniversary of its Rediscovery

by Lisa Shara Hall
January 11, 2010
Bruce Schneider, importer and former Wines of Chile consultant, believes that Carmenere represents Chile's best opportunity to establish a unique identity in the global wine market. (Carmenere leaf on the left; Merlot leaf on the right.)

A Colchagua Valley Carmenere Conference that drew only one American (importer and former Wines of Chile consultant Bruce Schneider) took place in Chile the same week as the 15th Anniversary of the rediscovery of Carmenere by Jean Michel Bousiquot.

Schneider shared his thoughts about Carmenere and the conference.

He stated, “I am most excited about the prospects for Carmenere in the U.S. because it is a grape variety with an outstanding pedigree, a unique and memorable story, and a flavor profile full of ripe red fruit with spicy notes and a silky tannin structure well suited to the tastes of U.S. consumers.”

Today, sales of Carmenere in the U.S. are growing faster than sales of any other variety from Chile. According to Chile's National Customs Service, Carmenere exports from Chile to the U.S. are up by 69 percent for the first eight months of 2009 compared to the same period in 2008.

According to Schneider, “When I started as the Managing Director for Wines of Chile in the U.S. in 2005, I knew Carmenere had the potential to become Chile's signature grape variety. However, at the time the majority of Carmeneres being exported were overly herbaceous. Today the vast majority of Carmeneres being exported have just the right amount of the spicy and sexy ripe red fruit that makes this variety so appealing. I am very optimistic about the future for Chilean Carmenere in the U.S.”

He believes that Carmenere represents Chile's best opportunity to establish a unique identity in the global wine market. From the time Carmenere was distinguished from Merlot, 15 years ago, the quality of Carmenere has been growing.

The seminar, hosted by the Colchagua Winery Association and CORFO, Chile's Economic Development arm was an international gathering that focused on Chile's signature grape variety from the viticultural, vinicultural, and commercial perspectives. Schneider spoke about "How to Position Carmenere in the U.S. Market".

Chile's Minister of Agriculture gave Bousiquot an award in recognition of his discovery at a dinner to mark the end of the conference that was held at Casa Lapostolle.

“The identification took me fifteen or twenty minutes and was the easy part, but the Chilean wine industry has done the hard work over the past fifteen years to realize Carmenere's potential in Chile," said Bousiquot, during the conference.

"I was asked to look at an unusual clone of merlot. When I did, I noticed right away that the young leaves were orange and red in color unlike the young leaves of Merlot which are white and green," said Bousiquot. "I knew it wasn't Merlot. Then I began to ask myself, what it was. I felt if I couldn't answer this, my colleagues wouldn't believe that I knew what I was talking about. It was then that I identified it as Carmenere. I was able to do this based upon historical records I had seen of pressed leaves of Carmenere," commented Bousiquot.

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