Sun 1 Jul 2012
The carignan grape doesn’t get much respect. The entry in the Third Edition of the formidable Oxford Companion to Wine (2006) comments that carignan “could fairly be called the bane of the European wine industry,” that it is “distinguished mainly by its disadvantages” and that “some interesting old Carignan vines [may] be treasured but let it not be planted.” Even Oz Clarke, who in his Encyclopedia of Grapes (2001) frequently displays a somewhat rueful fondness for off-varieties, says that the grape “is now in decline but not fast enough.” Ouch! Well, he does at least concede that “only in exceptional sites, with first-class exposure and good drainage, and with very good winemaking can it produce fine wine on its own.”
Let me proffer a candidate for such an example. This is the Meli “Dueño de la Luna” Carignan 2009, Maule Valley, Chile. The wine is produced on an estate purchased in 2005 by veteran winemaker Adriana Cerda and her three sons, who were attracted by the 60-year-old carignan and riesling vines. Meli “Dueño de la Luna” Carignan 2009 is 100 percent varietal. The wine fermented in stainless steel tanks with native yeasts, and it aged one year in stainless steel and six months in old French oak barrels, so there’s no taint of new oak about it; rather, it’s notable for its fresh, clean appeal and integrity. The color is vivid dark ruby-purple. Aromas of blueberries and blueberry tart, red and black currants and plums display a high, wild note that sings of cloves and sandalwood and potpourri, all underlined by penetrating elements of cocoa powder and graphite. It’s a fairly substantial wine that remains lithe, light on its feet, fleetingly lithic; in other words a happy marriage of power and elegance enlivened by vibrant acidity and well-mannered and burnished tannins that support juicy, spicy black and blue fruit flavors. Meli “Dueño de la Luna” Carignan 2009 is quite dry, and it gains intensity and concentration as the moments pass, leading to a finish that brings in a slightly austere character of underbrush, moss and dried porcini. 14.5 percent alcohol. Production was 500 cases. Drink now through 2017 to ’19. Excellent. About $45.
We gladly drank the Meli “Dueño de la Luna” Carignan 2009 with a dinner LL prepared of pork chops given a coating of sweet paprika and spicy coffee rub, then seared in our old cast-iron skillet, and wholewheat penne pasta with chopped and sauteed beet stems and greens with a few yellow plums. A terrific meal, deeply rich and flavorful, with the perfect wine for the moment.
Imported by Global Vineyard, Berkeley, Cal. A sample for review.