Enhancing a red wine in a land known for its Franciacorta.
Carmenère, the grape variety that has always been among us.
Carmenère comes from the “Vits biturica”, which arrived in the north Italy and in the Bordeaux region in the Roman era, originating from the port of Durres-Albania (Columella). From the Vitis biturica, in the Bordeaux region, the Carmenère, Cabemet Franc, Merlot, Cabemet Sauvignon, Malbec, and so on, were selected. In Italy, the Carmenère would occupy about 4,200 hectares, in Chile 2,306 hectares, and in France just over 100 hectares.
In the Italian DOC wines, it is confused with the Cabemet franc, and it is mainly grown in the north-east, from Brescia to Friuli, an area registered in the registry of vineyards for about 240 hectares in purity and 109 other hectares mixed with Cabemet Sauvignon. The Carmenère is very different from the Cabemet Franc, firstly because it has a different DNA, but also due to different isozymes, and also for its smaller leaves. The Carmenère has imperfect flowers (reflexed stamens with spiral filaments), its grapes are very rich in pyrazines (vegetal aroma of green pepper), its wines are well-structured, very colorful (anthocyanins), rich in tannins, round and soft, with a very herbaceous, complex flavor (Fregoni). Since 1990, when we decided to increase the area cultivated with red grape varieties, Cabemet Franc cuttings were also purchased from a French nursery, and our first doubts arose because it became clear to us that this “French” Cabemet had little to do with the variety traditionally grown in Franciacorta under the same name and locally known as “bordò magher”, due to its characteristic scanty bunches and small grapes (ed. “magher” meaning also meager in dialect).
Not only on an ampelographic level, but also physiologically, the two grape varieties were significantly different: the “French” Cabemet was more fertile and had a more regular productivity, it was less vigorous, on average more precocious, and ripened about a week before. We noticed that the bunches of the “French” Cabemet were smaller, but more compact and, to the taste, the grapes did not have the typically distinct herbaceous note of the “old” “Italian” Cabemet. It was, at that point, almost certain that it was not the same variety.
During the same period, the same doubts had arisen in other wine producing areas cultivated with Bordeaux varieties and, through genetic research, it was determined that the variety grown in northern Italy under the name of Cabemet Franc, and in Chile as Merlot, was actually Carmenère, even if only in the year 2000, this important discovery was made public in a scientific conference organized by Ca ‘del Bosco in Erbusco.
In 2008, the Carmenère was officially recognized in the Disciplinary regulating the Curtefranca Red DOC.