Week 22 – Carignan

Tasting Notes

We tasted: Domaine de Lavail, Old Vines Carignan, M&S, £10

Emma says: “Mission unaccomplished. After promising we would taste a Chilean Carignan in our notes I popped into my local store to find we were out of stock. Pretty embarrassing considering it is a wine I buy for that supermarket. Oops.

Maybe it was fate, because the birthplace of Carignan is France and very quickly I found a full shelf of that very style staring at me. But I’m still sad because Chile has this brilliant new movement called “Vigno” which is a collective of new winemakers specially dedicated to growing interest in their old vine Carignan. Seek out one of these if you do like this style of wine, just look out for the word “Vigno” on the label of a Chilean red. They are vibrant, blue fruited with a heady perfume and densely packed with flavour. A memorable experience.

However our French Carignan is also an old vine expression which is good news. Carignan is a vigorous vine which means it can over produce and deliver a style that is rustic without much concentration in flavour. The old vine versions are far better because the vines produce less fruit with more powerful flavour, creating just the balance required for a delicious wine.

The wine tried was very typical. It had a raisin rum fruit aroma which gave it that southern French expression from the warm climate. The palate has pleasing warm spices of liquorice and cinnamon overlaying baked plums and blueberry fruit. The structure had the rich tannin typical of smaller berries from old vines, but not aggressive given tannins in Carignan are low. The acidity was nicely in balance despite alcohol giving you that gentle mulled wine heat, another typical feature of this grape. It was more on the European flavour spectrum having quite an earth savoury finish. So I think I still prefer the versions I’ve tried in Chile and even Israel. But a nice reminder of a traditional red that is hearty and soothing.”

Andy says: “This will be a fairly short review as I was fairly unimpressed with this wine.

On the nose, all I could get was what I think are referred to as ‘high tones’ – a bit nail polish remover-y or alcohol-y. A good old sniff really did open up the sinuses. Taste wise, I didn’t get any particular flavour or fruit, but I identified that the tannins were fine grained with just the smallest bit of grip. Quite a bit of acid too, I think, and a good old burn on the swallow. Maybe this needs a day to be open, who knows, I’ll find out tonight.”

Buying Guide

Carignan comes from the south of France in the Rhone or Languedoc. It is typically used in blending but you can find some in their pure form. So we’ll be looking for an Old Vine Carignan from the south of France. Typically these are labelled with that name on the front label.

3 thoughts to “Week 22 – Carignan”

  1. Wine – Katie Jones Old Vine Carignan, 2014 (Naked Wines £18)
    Bottle says – Blueberries, spices

    This is one of those wines that I should drink more often! Apparently, the vines used in this particular wine are 130 years old, and obviously have a very low yield of around one bottle per vine.
    The colour was a very intense red, tinged with purple. On the nose, I could smell ripe black fruits, mainly cherry and plum, although there is a dry paper/antique book/ vellum ‘dusty’ smell tempering the fruit; sorry I can’t explain it any better, but that’s what it smells like – however it is not at all unpleasant.
    The taste was more of the black fruits, but with cassis, liquorice, leather, tobacco, and black pepper, with the dusty/fusty/umami overtones keeping the fruit in check, and it had a very pleasant, chewy, dry blackcurrant finish.
    I need to try more wines of this type, as I’ve only ever tried Katie’s, and it is a wine I find really interesting, due to its complexity; I would also be curious to see what the effects of ageing this wine would be, to see if the fruit flavours revealed themselves more over time.

  2. I think this might have been the first time I ever tasted Carignan. I found an Etalage Carignan 2016 from Pays D’Herault in Southern France in Amathus Soho (£8.25).

    It had a vivid bright garnet colour. To smell it was what I’d describe as rustic and hearty. Intense brambly red berries, a bit of pungent farmyard and a smooth rounding of vanilla. There were touches of tar and pepper in there too. To taste it was medium to light bodied and medium dry. There was plenty of fruitiness – summer fruits and brambles – and a bit of tannin, but nicely balanced. It was surprisingly light, yet still hearty. Not much finish.

    I was surprised by how light it was, but then read Emma’s notes and wondered if it had been made this way deliberately using carbonic maceration. In any case, it worked very will chilled on a summer’s evening.

    Overall, I liked it. A good, simple rustic red. Nothing flash, but very drinkable.

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