What do the Languedoc and Chile have in common? Answer: – they both have old Carignan vines. I would not immediately associate Chile with Carignan, that is, until yesterday afternoon, when I went to a tasting of Old Vines organised by the energetic promotional body, Wines of Chile. There were seventeen wines, claiming a vine age of fifty years or more, and ten of them were either pure Carignan or a blend in which Carignan was the main variety. And very good some of them were too.
Excessive oak can be a bit of a problem. Chile still tends to favour an enthusiastic use of oak for its better quality wines, whereas I preferred the wines with more subtle oak and think that Carignan should have enough flavour to stand alone, with a touch of oak to add a bit of extra structure and refinement, but nothing too overpowering. And could I see a similarity of taste between Carignan from Chile and Carignan from the Languedoc? I would be lying if I immediately said yes, but there were wines with some of the rustic berry flavours that I associate with the Carignan from the Languedoc. Overall they were good, providing enjoyable but youthful drinking. And they should develop in bottle too.
These are the wines I liked best in the line up.:
2008 Underraga TH Maule Carignan – average vine age 50. - £11.99 from The Wine Society and Flint Wines
Quite a deep colour. Rounded red berry fruit and nicely integrated oak on the palate. Medium weight and nicely balanced.
2005 Odfjell Orzada Carignan, Cauquenes-Maule - £13.49. Imported by Alliance Wine. This comes from vines that are 100 years old. Medium colour; quite solid oak on the nose, with a hint of red cherries. Some spicy cherry fruit and oak on the palate. Quite rounded with a ripe, sweetish finish.
2008 Santa Carolina Carignan, Cauquenes – Maule - £13.99
60 - 70 year old vines. Imported by Percy Fox & Co
Quite deep young colour. Firm oak on the nose, but quite a fresh palate, with some berry fruit to balance the oak. Medium weight palate, with a bottle that would serve for weight lifting exercises in the gym.
2008 Canepa Genovino Carignan. Maule - £13.99
70 year old vines. This was very dense and oaky on both nose and palate. Very solid, tannic and youthful.
2008 Oveja Negra Single Vineyard. - £9.99 Imported by Hallgarten. 40 year old vines; 92% Carignan with some Carmenere
This has the rustic berry fruit that I associate with Carignan, with some fresh fruit flavours; medium weight and if there was any oak, it was refreshing unobtrusive. My favourite in the line up. And the best value.
2008 Gillmore Carignan Reserve, Loncolmilla – 80 year old wines.
This vineyard must be near eucalyptus trees as the nose was redolent of sweet mint, which repeats on the palate. There was tannin and some ripe fruit, but the mint was a touch overpowering.
2005 Las Lomas Reserva Carignan Maule
The label said that this was unfiltered. The nose was pretty dense and concentrated and the palate had some firm, tightly crafted tannins, with some berry fruit amidst the oak and tannins. Quite a solid, dense mouthful. I like my Carignan more accessible. Maybe it will develop with bottle age.