Tonight I’m branching out a bit. On the advice of my wine buff at Highbury Vintners, I’m trying a bottle of Mont Rocher Carignan Vielles Vignes (Old Vine) from France’s Languedoc-Roussillon region. Carignan is not a varietal that I’d usually go for, but as it’s been recommended by a pro, I figure it’s worth a punt.
I’d personally coin Carignan as the black sheep of the red wine family. Unlike its noble and much loved relations Pinot Noir, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot, Carignan is a lesser-known red with a reputation for being quite rough. Carignan grapes are really high in acidity and harsh tannins which causes its wine to have an abrasive edge and an astringent bite.
These aren’t the kind of wine qualities that most drinkers desire, so unfortunately for Carignan, it’s been burdened with an unpopular “paint stripper” reputation. But this bottle of Mont Rocher Carignan does have a plus side to it; it’s old-vine wine. Many consider old vine wine to be of a higher quality, because although an old vine produces less fruit, the grapes that are harvested tend to be incredibly concentrated. As a result, the wine tends to be jammier, juicier and far more complex than young vine wine of the same varietal. They do say, less is more after all!
Carignan is definitely a wine that would benefit from geriatric vines and tonight i’m putting my taste buds and Carignan’s unfortunate stigma to the test. Is it as bad as everyone says it is, or is it just misunderstood? As I pour myself a glass I try to remove any images of cheap boxed wine and bargain bin end bottles. I’m going to give this bottle a fair chance to impress.
Much to my delight, an incredibly inviting and aromatic concoction of spiced licorice and blueberries wafts up from the glass. It’s a vibrant and zesty aroma that leaves me wanting more. I take along sip, taking in flavors of juicy berries and mulled spices. Cassis, blueberry and cracked black pepper are very distinct on the palate. It definitely has a prominent amount of tannins, especially on the finish, but they are nowhere near as harsh as I was expecting. And they actually work really well as they add a lovely little kick and a bit of edginess to the palate.
OK – conclusion met! There is no doubt about it, this is a sophisticated, elegant and well-structured wine and I’m happy to take back all of my previous misconceptions. There are absolutely no “paint stripper” qualities about it, and i’d even go as far to say that I enjoyed it more than some bottles of my much loved Pinot Noir. This bottle is chock full of flavor and character, proving that Carignan shouldn’t automatically be associated with bad wine. Take my advice here — if you’re into wines with a kick and a bit of intrigue, this bottle will give any of your current noble favorites a run for their money. Get a bottle now and raise a glass to the geriatrics!
I bought this bottle of Mont Rocher Carignan Vielles Vignes from Highbury Vintners for £7.30.