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Duo bringing Carmenère back to Bordeaux

A pair of young winemakers in Bordeaux are putting their faith in Carmenère, bringing the variety, which has all but disappeared in France, back to its birthplace.

Marc and Elodie Milhade, the bother and sister duo at Château Recougne near Libourne on the Right Bank planted two hectares of Carmenère at the 100-hectare estate in 2000 but are keen to increase plantings due to a positive reception towards the wine, which they believe helps them to stand out.

Chateau Recougne Carmenre (centre)

Using French clones, the pair only make Carmenère in exceptional years as the variety is notoriously tricky to ripen.

“We got a good volume of berries this year – it’s a low yielding variety so volumes are usually small as the berries are tiny. For us, 2011 was a very good year for Carmenere,” Elodie told db.

With regards to comparing Carmenere from Bordeaux to Chile, Milhade believes Bordeaux produces a lighter and smoother” style of wine with the variety’s signature notes of pepper and spice.

“The structure of the wine is different here – in Chile the Carmenères are more robust and full bodied. We’re going after a silky, light style of red with it,” she said.

Though mainly sold in France, the wine is also proving a hit in Russia.

Carmenère was originally planted in the Medoc on Bordeaux’s Left Bank. Its name comes from the French word for crimson, “carmin”.

The grape has all but disappeared in France but is now widely planted in Chile, with nearly 9,000 hectares of the inky variety planted there, though it wasn’t recognised in the country until 1994, prior to which it was thought to be Merlot.

In addition to Carmenère, Château Recougne, build in the early 17th-century, produces Bordeaux Superieur from Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Cabernet Franc.

“We’re working hard to make our wines more approachable younger. It’s really important for the Bordeaux Superieur category to produce a more easy going style of wine than the classed growths,” Milhade said.

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