Lozärn Wines, handcrafted on Doornbosch farm in the Robertson region, are the champions of the carménère grape variety on home soil. In 2012, winemaker Salóme Buys-Vermeulen was enjoying a fine Chilean carménère with husband, Sybrand and a friend. She says it “was love at first sip”. This moment led to her planting a carménère vineyard in 2014. From this block Lozärn Wines produced the first single-varietal carménère in South Africa.
Carménère Day, celebrated annually on 24 November, has inspired Salóme to share carménère’s story of origin, its journey at Lozärn, as well as why all South Africans should be enjoying a glass on Carménère Day.
It’s a tale of three continents; beginning in France, then on to South America, and finally to South Africa. Known as the ‘Lost Child of Bordeaux’: carménère was one of the original six red varieties used in the blends of Bordeaux, along with the famous five—cabernet sauvignon, cabernet franc, merlot, malbec and petit verdot. Lozärn Wines produces both a single-varietal carménère as well as a rosé carménère.
The estate launched their maiden vintage 2016 in December 2017, with just 100 bottles, alongside a 100 per cent Carménère Rosé 2017. Only 2000 bottles of the Carménère 2017 have been produced. Redolent with cherry and purple plum notes, the profile deepens into darker fruit on the palate with mulberries and blackcurrant with soft, fine tannins. “The flavour of choc-mocha it develops from the wood contact is just exquisite,” says Salòme. The estate-grown carménère is not only produced in limited qualities, but is also a challenging variety to make, and as such it commands a premium price.
Salóme explains the time-consuming process of bringing a single varietal carménère to market: “At the moment, as far as we know, there is only one clone of carménère available, which makes it even harder to work with to adjust to various soil types. We can’t adapt the clone to the specific sites, like we can for every other cultivar. Meaning it won’t thrive everywhere! “Site is the most important. We’ve found that it thrives in drier, warmer areas. Carménère doesn’t do well with large temperature differences between day and night, such as you find in coastal areas. Clay soil is also risky as it retains too much water and the soils are also too cool. “To produce a top, premium wine, you need to make sure you give the grapes the longest possible ripening season, alongside some other vineyard practices, such as removing side shoots early on in the season to reduce the level of natural pyrazines [that green bell pepper aroma] in the flavour profile.”
The Carménère 2017 (R476.00) and the Carménère Rosé 2019 (R120.00) are available through www.lozarn.co.za as well as specific outlets.