Grapevine Archive for Carignan
Living with a wine adviser can be a tortuous and trying existence… or so my partner Lisa tells me.
I am forever sticking a glass under her nose and saying ‘absorb the bouquet on this’ or ‘what are getting from this?’ She always obliges me, occasionally throwing a flippant ‘I can smell wine!!!’
However, I have found one way to guarantee a favourable response: to offer her a wine that has a sizeable proportion of the carignan grape.
Originating from Aragon and believed to be named after the ancient town of Cariñena, carignan is a very old grape variety. It was originally planted for its high-yielding, rather than palate-pleasing, attributes. However, it has since seen its coverage half in the last 40 years as a grubbing up programme took full effect. Dismissed by many, the grape has never really had many critical admirers.
For me, however, this much-maligned grape offers dark fruit in abundance backed up with smooth spiciness that cannot only plump up a blend but also carries itself as herb-infused sweet-scented wine, featuring in offerings spanning Chile to Spain, such as Priorat, via some of my favourites from the south of France (such as Monpeyroux and Collioure).
For a full-on and densely flavoured wine, a good Priorat always fits the bill. Try Cal Pla (£11.50), possibly with a venison casserole. To experience the more aromatic nature of carignan try Tomàs Cusiné’s Mineral del Montsant (£9.95).
Chile offers the bold Undurraga TH Maule Carignan (£12.50) where the grape brings its trademark fruit but also a firmness that makes this particular example great with slow-roasted belly pork.
In France, the grape helps to produce an uncomplicated quaffable warming red in the form of Domaine de Gournier, Cévennes Rouge 2013 (£6.25). This is soon to be a members’ favourite, I am sure, alongside Duo des Vignes, Vin de France 2013 (£5.95), which sees carignan blended with merlot.
Some current members’ favourites also owe a lot of their appeal to having carignan in their blends, in various proportions too. Domaine Laborie IGP 2013 (£5.75), Minervois, Château Sainte-Eulalie 2013 (£7.50) and Côtes du Roussillon-Villages, Château de Pena 2012 (£6.75) spring to mind, as well as our ever-popular Society’s French Full Red (£5.95).
Each of the above is different in style but share a dark fruit-driven feel with a backbone of spice that makes them at once easy drinking and yet with the ability to compliment any hearty autumnal meal.
For an example of to what heights carignan can achieve when yields are kept low try the elegant Domaine Aupilhac, Le Carignan, Vin de Pays du Mont Baudile 2010 (£16.50) or Côtes du Roussillon Villages, Les Calcinaires Rouge, Domaine Gauby 2012 (£14.50).
So as the leaves fall, the nights close in and the temperature outside drops, raise a glass and carignan regardless.
But Sylvain’s career as a fruit and vegetable producer was short lived, as one year’s crop was wiped out. His father had some vines which he gave to Sylvain. He should have joined the coop, but he didn’t and the rest is history. Except that much of what Sylvain’s dad had planted was carignan.
When young Sylvain went to wine school, he learned that carignan was the root of all evil. But Sylvain made his carignan wine and it was David Pugh who tasted it and who bought it for his restaurant. And once again the rest is history.Sylvain Fadat’s estate is Domaine Aupilhac which today is one of the top estates of the Languedoc and famous for its carignan.
The Mimosa was packed recently for a special dinner with a carefully chosen menu to match Aupilhac wines. The highlight unquestionably was a 1990 Carignan, Sylvain’s second vintage. This was a wine of extraordinary beauty and complexity.
It is partly thanks to Sylvain Fadat and the fact that he sold to David Pugh that the carignan grape was saved. I have recommended this restaurant before and do so again without hesitation.
Buyer, South of France
Critics of the Languedoc, and there are a few, often suggest that there is no real notion of terroir. Worse, the wines are little more than simple, with no capacity for ageing. The same people will very likely be the same ones who will condemn the carignan grape and who still actively encourage growers to remove it.
This is Sylvain Fadat standing outside his cellar in Montpeyroux and about to dig out a bottle a bottle of 1998. He had no need to prove the point; indeed I had told him of a wonderful bottle of 1999 which I had drunk a day or two before. But we got talking about Montpeyroux and its future, and this 1998 was a way of illustrating a point.
It was also breakfast and this was a lovely way to start the day. This was a real treat, a wine of infinite complexity and grace – and still youthful.
As for the future of Montpeyroux, it is likely that it will given Cru status by 2014.
De Martino have searched the length and breadth of Chile looking for old vineyards. Wine produced from grapes of old vines has a wonderful “old vine” texture, an unforced, natural, concentration while retaining a silky palate. Those who try to compensate for young vines in the vineyard by over-extracting in the cellar never achieve the same results.
The Maule region was the first to planted because it has sufficient rainfall to support vines without irrigation. Recently, wineries have discovered superb vineyards planted in the 1950′s with dry-farmed carignan. The El León 2006 wine is a lovely example of the fresh, fine-flavoured, wine that can be produced from these old vines.
Chilean carignan is a little fleshier and fuller than the firmer and leaner style usually found in France. It has lovely grip and structure, and is ideal for a hunk of protein – especially the fattier cuts such as belly pork or shoulder of lamb.
Words can only tell you so much, so De Martino have produced a one minute video “vignette” showing the El León vineyard in Maule: