A Night of Carignan
For many wine drinkers in the US, Carignan has a bad name. Eric Asimov even went off in search of some potentially good bottles back in 2009 but didn’t find many. There is in fact so little of it in the country that most people don’t even know what it is. Maybe this is for the better as in Europe, many people know it and loathe it as it was planted to overproduce and grow squalid, flat, cheap wines mostly in the south of France.
But once you have the chance to taste well-crafted wines from old vine Carignan or at least properly grown and vinified grapes, everything changes. It is a transcendent grape with this glowing, living purple hue in the glass. Wonderful in character and infinitely deep, it ignites an even greater love affair with wine than one had before–when you find the right one.
With all this in mind, it’s no wonder that we jumped at the chance to partake of the “Nit de les Carinyenes” put on by the Cellers de Porrera association. Essentially, it’s a large gathering of all the producers in the Priorat village of Porrera and their Carignans. But no, this isn’t just some pouring of wines. It’s actually a chance to taste the single vineyard Carignans prior to being blended in to other bottles.
Some of them, like those from Cims de Porrera or Balmaprat stay as a beautiful single varietal wine. Others, like the Nit de Nin from Nin-Ortiz or the Vi de Vila from Vall Llach get blended to wonderful ends. This is all wondrous in and of itself, but beyond this, many cellars pull out bottles of old years, like 2000 for instance which was a stellar growing year for the region. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve had to drink when you taste a vintage like that as it lights up the palate and nearly put tears in your eyes.
It’s not a cheap night at 50€ (especially considering the meager food offerings), but it’s worth it to taste these very rare and exquisite wines. In that price, you do get some food, but the venue rotates between the four or so restaurants in Porrera in the name of fairness so depending on the year, the food offer might be better than others. Still, it’s really about tasting these wines and being able to look Asimov in the eye if he dares to badmouth Carignan again and say, “you ain’t seen nothing”.
Those fully included in the tasting were: Ardèvol, Castellet, Cal Pla, Els Bigotis del Gat, Celler de l’Encastell, Joan Simó, Vall Llach, Família Nin Ortiz, Ferrer Bobet, Marco Abella, Merum Priorati, Sangenís i Vaqué, Trosset, and special guest from up north in Empordà, La Vinyeta.