When you think of wine from Argentina, thoughts of tangy reds and bold whites are probably the first things that come to mind.
These wines are extremely popular and for a good reason.
Much of Argentina’s wine production is suited to cooler growing regions, which means that wines like the Malbec, a fruity red wine, and the Carmenere, a spicy red wine, are very common.
As a result, many wine lovers are curious about the differences between the two. If you’re also curious about Carmenere vs Malbec, keep reading.
Carmenere vs Malbec – What’s the Real Difference?
Both South American wines are beloved for their rich flavors and fantastic pairings.
Both wines go with red meat, and spicy foods, and are superstars when paired with barbecue flavors.
Carmenere has a very herbaceous, almost kale-like flavor mixed with green peppercorn, red fruits, and a hint of bitter cocoa.
Malbec has more of a dark fruit, cocoa, and tobacco flavor with less minerality.
The key with both varieties is to avoid buying overly cheap bottles. Cheap varieties are often harvested too early, making a wine that’s more bitter and tannic than it has to be.
What Is Carmenere Wine?
Carmenere is a red wine mainly from Chile and blends from different grape varietals.
One of Chile’s primary grapes is Carmenere, which grows following the sub climatic region of Malleco in the Andes Mountains.
Flavors range from tart cherry and green peppercorn to sweet red berries, cocoa, and light tannins. Most Carmenere varietals have heavy minerality.
This wine has high alcohol content – as much as 16% – compared to 12%-13% in most wines, yet is considered better to be enjoyed young rather than old.
Though the tannin content isn’t overwhelming, Carmenere is a good candidate for aerating or decanting to soften the tannins and develop the full flavor and aroma.
Where is Carmenere grown?
Carmenere is grown throughout most of Chile, including the cooler regions. Historically, this type has been grown in places with a higher elevation between 3,000 and 4,200 m in elevation.
Carmenere is best enjoyed at around the 14th month. The ripening period is lengthened to compensate for the shorter growing season: sometimes up to nine months.
How Is Carmenere Made?
Grapes are crushed and must be fermented before being bottled to produce Carmenere wine. The must is aged in oak barrels for 12-24 months.
The wine’s fermentation is controlled using enzymes and time, meaning that it takes longer to mature because of the cold climate.
What Wines Are Made From Carmenere Grapes?
Carmenere grapes are used in several red wines from Chile, including Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Carménère, and many others.
However, producers will also blend these grapes with different varieties to obtain an appealing taste profile for consumers.
In 1994, a DNA test was performed on some delicious Chilean “merlot” grapes, to see why they are so outstanding.
The test revealed that they were actually coveted Carmenere grapes.
This knowledge enabled the vineyards to change the husbandry techniques to fully develop the flavor of the grapes, resulting in richer wines from Chile.
What Is Malbec Wine?
This is a red wine mostly produced in Argentina. Malbec has a rich, fruity and chocolate flavor with a hint of tobacco and a short finish.
It’s perfect for enjoying with BBQ, steak, and spicy foods.
Where Is Malbec Grown?
Malbec is primarily a red grape grown in the southern regions of Argentina, specifically in Mendoza, La Rioja, and San Juan.
Malbec is also grown in France but on a much smaller scale.
Malbec is a fairly versatile grape that is often used in Bordeaux and Cabernet Sauvignon blends.
How Is Malbec Wine Made?
Malbec grapes are nearly always hand-harvested and can be aged in barrels or tanks, and usually hits the market after 24 months at the latest.
One interesting thing about Malbec is that the grapes are kept cold for the best flavor.
So they’re harvested early in the morning and kept cold during maceration to protect the delicate flavor.
See tasters exploring the differences and similarities of Carmenere and Malbec in the video below so you know what to expect.
Carmenere and Malbec are both popular South American red wines.
The main difference is how the grapes used to make the wine are grown and the aging process that the wine goes through.
If you want a red wine with strong herb and fruit flavors, you may want to try the Carmenere.
If you want a more balanced red wine that is less spicy than the Carmenere, try the Malbec.
Both wines are delicious and worth trying. Pick up a bottle of each and give them a sip. See which you prefer! We suspect you’ll enjoy both.