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Carmine grapes

Carmine is a very modern grape variety. Being a cross of Cabernet Sauvignon and Carignan, the flavour, thus produced is the right mix of fruit, spice and dark chocolate combined into one.

If ever you come across a deeply saturated grape, filled with crimson red, then it’s the Carmine grape.

Carmine grape is not a European variety. When we speak of wine, the first thought that strikes the mind is the open, windy vineyards of France and Piedmont, Italy – the wine capitals of the world.

If ever there is wine produced en masse then its these two countries. France and Italy have been the father of all grapes and all wines and still continue to do so.

Wine grape varieties

Some of the oldest and most popular grape varieties – Chardonnay, Burgundy, Nebbiolo among others, have always given cross grape varieties that are now comfortable grown in the dry hillsides of America and the sandy deserts of Australia.

Considering that, Carmine is basically not even grown in Europe, but is exclusive to the United States.

Here we discuss on some of the important characteristics of this variety, how it was introduced and when, winemaking and which cuisines best complement with its fruit-spice flavour.

Origins of Carmine

Carmine is a 21st century grape variety. It was introduced by Dr. Harold Olmo (1909–2006), a noted American viticulturist and plant geneticist.

He introduced the grape when he was the professor at the University of California after in depth studying and observing the genetically crossed grapes that grow in normal manners.

The American climate does not really allow the growth of vineyards as also the topography, however, recent viticulturists and farmers have been able to take advantage of hilly provinces and regions of California and Pennsylvania.

Philip Wagner, a colleague of the late professor convinced him to find a grape that could withstand the cold American climate and produce high tannin. Thus was the Carmine born.

The origins of Carmine had economic reasons too. Americans have been already quite familiar with European wine industry since the 18th century and for quite some time, wanted their own wine industry started.

The goal to develop Carmine was the existence of a good quality, juicy grape that could be made into a wine producing variety.

After introducing the variety in the 1960s, it soon became popular with some of the winemakers of that era – notably John Moorhead and Doug Moorhead, who, in the same era opened Presque Isle Wine Cellars in Pennsylvania.

They grew Carmine with success and manufactured a wine that Americans could take pride on.

Since then, Carmine plantations have spread out and can now be found in Michigan, New York, Ohio and Oregon.

Wines with Carmine grapes


Carmine is a cross of Cabernet Sauvignon and Carignan – two popular French grapes. The size of the berry can differ, but generally is larger than the Cabernet Sauvignon berry and has a loose cluster.

Carmine was specially designed to withstand the cold season, so it’s harvesting time is generally mid to late October making it a late budding grape.

In a raw state, the grape tastes and smells very close to capsicum, that for most wine enthusiasts and beginners is a peculiar trait, since capsicum is not even close to being called a fruit.

Maceration periods are generally normal with 3 years being reported as the optimal time period and possess a very minty-capsicum-medicinal flavour when not picked.

This is probably one of the reasons why Carmine wines are not pure Carmine but are a blend of other wines too that give them a unique American category.

Its colour is extremely dark, being close to an inky shade and that gives very dark pigments to the wines that are blended in. It also goes really well with oak barrels, giving them an oaky fragrance at the end.

Complementary foods

Carmine wines are spicy and bitter. Miles away from sweet, ‘jammy’ flavour, these can go well only with mild cuisine.

American food is mostly a mishmash of Hispanic and north European stuff, so most Americans need not worry about when and how Carmine needs to be taken.

Use it as a complement with your usual salad or even as a dressing with it to give a spicy, smooth tinge to the green vegetables you munch.

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Michael Bredahl

Michael Bredahl

Wine Writer

Michael is an online enthusiast, with a lot of knowledge about online marketing. Traveling around the world to hunt for the perfect wine. Latest on Sicily, where Etna has a huge impact on the taste, which is strong with a bitter aftertaste for the youngest wines, but older wines are fantastic. Drinking wine, and writing about them, are one the passions. Remember to drink responsibly 🙂

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