Even oenology professors didn’t know what it was. In November 1994, a group of Chilean scientists accompanied French ampelographer (vine expert) Jean Michel Boursiquot through the vineyards of Carmen winery in Maipo Valley. When they stopped to inspect a plot of Merlot, Boursiquot uttered something no one was expecting: ‘This isn’t Merlot, it’s Carmenère.’ The Chileans looked at each other. ‘Carme what?’
At the time, it wasn’t as simple as picking up a smartphone and Googling the word. So after the vineyard inspection Philippo Pszczólkowski, an oenology professor at the Pontifical Catholic University of Chile, returned to the faculty to look through his books. And there it was, in an old encyclopedia of wine grapes – the obscure variety of Carmenère.