• By: Kate More

Spice up your take-out dinner with Carmenère

It’s a common dilemma — you love spicy food, but you only like red wine, and traditionally, wine pairing options for spicy food are traditionally limited to off-dry and aromatic white wines. For folks who want to properly match wine with their food, this is quite the pickle. And with so many of us ordering Asian take-out while Ontario is in Lockdown, this taste bud conundrum is only getting trickier.

Luckily, one red wine can pull up a chair to the proverbial spicy dinner table: Carmenère. Historically a Bordeaux grape, Carmenère was used as a component in red blends in the Medoc region, adding depth and black fruit notes to the wine. But in 1994, Carmenère vines were “discovered” in Chile (they were originally thought to be Merlot), and under the Chilean sun and ideal terroir, Carmenère came into its own as a standalone wine.

The elements that make Carmenère so tasty for spicy food, are two-fold: palate-soothing, soft tannins and high levels of pyrazines – aroma compounds which give the wine distinctive green and peppery notes, alongside flavours of black plum and paprika, and even a hint of jalapeño.

Here a few great Carmenère options at the LCBO:

Laura Hartwig Single Vineyard Carmenère 2018, $15.95, Vintages

Laura and Alejandro Hartwig Family have been making eco-friendly wine in Chile since 1978, when they moved to Colchagua from Canada as a retirement project. Since then, their biodynamic grape-growing practices and delicious wine have garnered international acclaim. In the glass, this wine is medium-bodied and smooth with notes of blackberry, walnut, mocha and grilled red pepper notes. Pair with spicy szechuan beef.

Concha y Toro Winemaker's Lot 148 Carmenère, $18.95

This Carmenère is produced for Canadian market from the Rapel region in Chile and has the Summer grilling season written all over it. In the glass, the wine has notable smoky character, alongside warm black plums and peppery spice. Pair with spicy beef bulgogi or grilled steak and chimichurri sauce.