ONE of the trying things about being a drinks columnist is the number of wines I have to taste in order to write this Shakespearian text for you guys. Products have to be really special to stand out from the crowd and, thankfully, they occasionally still do.

I was planning to take a look at Sancerre, partly because I was feeling rather contrite after I recently criticised the region but then I opened a bottle of carmenere from South Africa and it blew my mind.

Carmenere is a bit of a cuckoo variety because, in the past, it was often incorrectly identified and planted as cabernet franc or merlot but, while there are similarities in looks and flavour, it produces deeper, more powerful wines that either of its doppelgangers. The difficulty in identifying the grape and sometimes in fully understanding its potential led it to being categorised as a blender for many years.

Even now it’s quite often sold by merchants as being similar to merlot but perhaps the time is right for carmenere to step out of the shadows and be more widely recognised as a cracking wine in its own right.

So, what sort of wine does carmenere produce? It’s a slow ripener so it suits the warmer, more reliable climates which explains its success in South America but when it does ripen, you should expect plums, red cherries and pepper alongside a decent alcohol level.

The Chileans are the undisputed champions of the grape as a single varietal. As the popularity of the variety grows, I can only hope that more of the New World winemakers take up the challenge because competition tends to lead to innovation in the wine world.

Santa Rita Medalla, Carmenere, Chile

A lovely wine with lush plums, blueberries and cassis backed up by hints of cocoa and vanilla.

Majestic Glasgow £11.99

Santa Ema Carmenere Gran Reserva, Chile

This is delicious, with juicy blackberry fruits on the nose and morello cherries and spicy notes on the palate. There's even a cracking cigar box edge to the finish that you usually have to pay a fortune for.

Tanners Wines online £13.20