Por W.O.Santander

En 1994 un experto francés redescubrió esta cepa en Chile. La industria viñatera local ha intentado posicionarla como el emblema del país, aunque aún está muy lejos de destronar al Cabernet Sauvignon.

Para la industria del vino chileno, la cepa Carménère fue una hija difícil de reconocer. Corría 1994 cuando el ampelógrafo francés (experto en el estudio de la vid) Jean Michel Bousiquot, de la Universidad de Montpellier, llegó al país para responder una pregunta que tenía de cabeza a los viñateros: ¿Por qué algunas plantas de Merlot maduran antes que el resto de su cuadra?                                                                                                             El veredicto del galo fue inesperado: no era Merlot sino que Carménère, la cepa que se creía extinta luego de que la filoxera arrasara con parte de los viñedos en Europa durante 1860.
Quince años han pasado desde que este hito marcó a las viñas locales, al percatarse de que eran las únicas en el mundo en contar con esta cepa. Sin embargo, transformar al Carménère en el emblema del país no ha estado exento de problemas, aprendizajes y también de éxitos. Hoy, cerca del 25% de las plantaciones de uva vinífera son de esta cepa con 110 mil hectáreas. Mientras el 8,7% de la producción de vino corresponde a Carménère, a una distancia más que considerable del Cabernet Sauvignon, que tiene el 39% del total, según cifras de Odepa.
La diferencia entre las plantaciones y la producción del Carménère se debe a que se ha enfocado la cepa hacia vinos premium, es decir, por cada planta se obtiene menos mosto y se hace necesario contar con muchas hectáreas para aumentar la producción. Distinto es el caso de Argentina donde el Malbec, su vino estrella, tiene cerca de 42% del total de la producción de vinos y cuenta con el respaldo cerrado de la industria viñatera de ese país. En Chile, en cambio, al principio, algunas viñas se negaron a etiquetar sus Carménère como tales, pues temían problemas con los clientes internacionales, al reconocer que lo que por muchos años habían vendido como Merlot, en realidad no lo era. La primera viña en hacerlo fue De Martino, en 1996 y luego se sumó el resto.                                                                                                Con todo, uno de los desafíos fue aprender a trabajar la cepa que da muchas notas herbáceas, lo que en el mercado es un factor negativo. «Al inicio se vendió bien porque era novedoso, luego se tuvo que demostrar que los vinos eran buenos», dice Marcelo Retamal, enólogo jefe de De Martino, quien agrega que para que el Carménère se transforme en serio en la cepa insignia de Chile falta contar con un amplio portafolio de vinos de alta calidad, «validados por el mercado y la crítica y que no haya dudas de que son vinos notables», asegura.

El primer gran éxito
El primer triunfo de la cepa a nivel mundial ocurrió  en 2007, cuando Robert Parker, el más prestigioso crítico de vinos, le otorgó 97 puntos a Carmín de Peumo de Concha y Toro. La hazaña la repitió en 2008. «Los avances del Carménère se deben a este reconocimiento y al trabajo de otras viñas, como Montes y Von Siebenthal», dice Ignacio Recabarren, enólogo de Carmín de Peumo. Aun así, dice que el avance podría haber sido más rápido si se hubiera generado un consenso en la industria. «Australia tomó el Syrah como su emblema y la potenció, aunque no son los únicos en tenerla. Si hubieran tenido el Carménère habrían hecho lo mismo, porque son más unidos en estas cosas a diferencia de nosotros», señala.

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