08-01-2018 ~ 7 Comments

The Grand Carignan Tasting

There existed a time when I was daft to the wiles and wonders of the grape, Carignan. Despite pockets of old vines in California it was essentially a lost variety. Little thought and even less desire was given this late-ripening, high-production, tight-clustered, and thus mold-prone grape variety that, given the name, one would assume is French. There are far more easy French grapes to cultivate (and ultimately sell) which is why Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Pinot Noir, and Chardonnay have run so rampant in the “Golden State”. And yes, the viticultural description of this grape would beg the question as to why anyone would bother with such a buggering bastard to squeeze a wine out of.

The answer I found, lay in the northwestern shores of the Mediterranean. A narrow band of wine lands that sweep up from the end of the Ebre (Ebro) River in Catalunya to the Rhône River in France is where this grape utterly thrives. While the vitis vinifera cross that ultimately resulted in Carignan probably happened somewhere more inland by the town of Cariñena, Aragón, it’s the Mediterranean-touched regions where it has made its true home. So yes, despite there being some 40,000ha of the grape up in France and around 1/10th that in all of Spain (including scratchy pockets in Aragón and Rioja), it is indeed a Spanish grape in origin.

Maybe you’ve tasted the grape before and thought, “Bleah, this is a just watery, astringent, uninteresting crap.” If so, I’d warrant that you tasted something from one of the large cooperatives or other such large producers in either Roussillon or Languedoc, France. The grape can most definitely overproduce and thus pump out some seriously underwhelming wines. But when production is limited, and that most important thing called “a shit” is given the grape is stupendous; so much so that I warrant it will be appear on at least one of those “hot grapes to discover” lists that come out cyclically in wine publications.

This rags to riches, reborn of the ashes story has been told so many times in wine writing over the last 15 years or so, it’s gotten to be a rather tired trope. Amazingly, despite this particular story about Carignan just sitting there for the plucking, it seems that no one beat me to it and for that, I’m shocked given that I’m rarely ever first in things. I mean, I wrote several wine books that have praised the wonders of Carignan yet many still stick to the old school line of thinking on this grape. It continues to surprise me that pithy tweets from people far, far more senior in wine than myself emerge saying something along the lines of, “Carignan? That’s just a blending grape. Can’t make varietal wines out of it.”

For several years, those have been fighting words whilst I sucked down bottle upon bottle of this blessed wine in monovarietal form from both Catalunya, Spain and Languedoc-Roussillon, France. But things have suddenly gotten real in terms of more appreciation for this grape as last summer I pitched a profile to my editor at Decanter and it was duly accepted. You can read the resulting article in the February magazine that’s out now and linked to below as well as another article just published last month that talks about my own coming around to the grape. Tied in with these two articles were lengthy rounds of tasting this last summer. I put out the call across Catalunya to the DOs where the grape is produced and then to the Carignan Renaissance Association which is a merry group of Carignan producers in the south of France who do a lot to promote the variety. My stipulations were quite simple: any wine that can be varietally-labeled as “Carignan” thus, in accordance with EU laws, 85% or more of the grape in the bottle.

Am I the first person to ever attempt a large, cross-border tasting such as this? No, there was at least on other one that I know of which took place up in Beziers, France on July 26, 2004 and you can read about here and consisted of 20 wines. That was a much different time as varietal Carignan wines were very rare. In fact, many of the wines don’t even exist anymore. Usually there was a healthy dollop of Frenchie grapes in these wines as Carignan was viewed as too rustic. But through more informed and advanced approaches to farming the grape and making wine from it, what you see now are beautiful wines. Don’t take my word for it. Pick up one of the wines listed below and see for yourself.

Further Reading

Before getting to the lengthy tasting notes that follow, you might want to read the following articles, especially if the grape is new territory for you:

  • Decanter – The rise of Carignan is my piece for Decanter that profiles the massive changes that have happened to this grape, what to expect, and how the taste profiles generally align when the grape is flat-out delicious.
  • Vila Viniteca – How to fall in love with Carignan gives a bit of the backstory that led to my own love of the grape and was written for the blog of a distributor based in Barcelona. You can also read it in Catalan & Spanish as per your linguistic poison–sorry, no French.

Tasting of Red Carignan Wines

What a wondrous journey this was as those who make these wines do it purely out of passion and from their top vineyards. It’s especially the case in France where a 100% Carignan wine is not permitted in most appellations you then have to declassify it to a regional IGT label which the uninformed drinker could take to seeing it as an “inferior” wine although this is most assuredly not the case. In fact, judging all these wines was one of the hardest cross-tastings I’ve ever had to do as the quality was so incredibly high across the board that there were piles and piles of wines in 90+ range with the maximum at 95. That’s not shabby as I am most assuredly not a generous score giver. Sadly, there were two wines that I had to disqualify for cork issues.

So as the Decanter article only had room for 20 wines, I present everything I tasted below. As you will note, I use my three star scoring system here because while I grade via the 100 point system to rank everything systematically in the dirty research side of things, I find it to be a bullshit system for the consumer given that knowing the range a wine tastes in instead of some exact numeric value is far, far more useful. That said, given how high these wines scored, you will note that within each star bracket, I’ve broken down the wines by their 100 point score to give some more finite frame of reference. As the highest were at 95 and they’re ordered from highest to lowest, you can do the math if you really, really want to know that score but suffice to say, these are some damned fine wines and while I don’t know the prices for all of them, there are some serious values in there as well.

One last thing to note is that you’ll see the upper range of scores leans more to the Catalan than Southern French producers. I’m sure people will write this off as my being biased given that I live in Catalunya. Let me emphasize that coming of age in wine when California was all into big, bold, oaky, and showy, I thoroughly hate detest overripe wines or wines that taste of massive cellar correction. When it comes to Carignan, it’s a wine that seems to love being fleshed out via hanging on the vine for awhile, such as until October. A vineyard of southwest orientation, which is doom for say, Grenache or other grapes, is where some of my most favorite Carignan wines have emerged. North-facing vineyards will often taste like you’ve skipped a course in the meal. Perhaps your tastes vary but in any case, I highly recommend trying everything listed here if you can and so, without further ado:

Ferrer Bobet – Selecció Especial Vinyes Velles 2013
DOQ Priorat
Dark ruby with garnet rim. Rich red and dark cherry with a touch of prune, chocolate, fresh mint and cut herbs, eucalyptus. Very fresh and vibrant fruit on the palate, excellent balance and energy with a lengthy, lengthy finish.
*** 14.5% ABV 95

Vall Llach – Mas de la Rosa 2015
DOQ Priorat
Dark ruby with garnet rim. Fresh red cherry with abundant violet floral notes, fennel, garrigue, and many levels of wild herbs, floating rose petals along with orchard blossoms. Incredibly delicate and structured in the mouth with spicy herbal notes that leaves with a lengthy, powdery floral finish holding a light dusting of cocoa. Despite the atypical alcohol level for the vintage, the wine is fully integrated.
*** 16% ABV 95

Domaine Anne Gros et Jean-Paul Tollot – Les Carrétals 2015
AOC Minervois
Lovely ruby color. Initially a touch closed that gives way to dark cherry, light mineral notes, bit of crunchy red cranberry, tea leaf, garrigue, and fresh wild herbs. Rich red fruits on the palate with crisp acidity that lifts and carries the wine into a lingering finish.
*** 14% ABV 94

Vinyes d’en Gabriel – Mans de Samsó 2014
DO Montsant
Dark ruby with blushing garnet crest. Dark cherry with wild finish, licorice, orange peel, caramelized strawberries, wet earthiness and great depth of aromas. Delicate balance with crisp acidity. Thick, savory red fruits on the palate with lengthy, powdery tannins that pull into a long, long finish.
*** 15% ABV 94

Celler d’Encastell – Roquers de Samsó 2015
DOQ Priorat
Dark ruby with lovely violet crest. Red cherry, currant, lovely bouquet of forest herbs, fennel, orange peel, toffee, and minty notes. Light and lovely in the body with delicate fruits and fully-integrated tannins that push a lengthy, wonderful finish.
*** 14.5% ABV 94

Saó del Coster – Planossos 2014
DOQ Priorat
Dark ruby, garnet rim. Dark cherry and plum, rich floral notes of violets and almond blossoms, fresh roses, minty fresh, spicy licorice. Red and dark fruits on the palate, elevated push from the acidity, with excellent structure and still a wealth of tannins.
*** 15% ABV 94

Vinyes d’Olivardots – Vd’O 1.11 2011
DO Empordà
Dark ruby with garnet crest. Delicate red cherry notes with a floral note of violets, orange peel, caramel, spicy pepper. Savory notes on the palate, rich and balanced red and blue fruit with a very, very long finish.
*** 15% ABV 94

Domaine Ferrer-Ribiere – Carignan Vignes de Plus de 100 ans 2014
IGP Côtes Catalanes
Dark ruby. Rich and layered dark cherry, prune, orange peel, licorice, black pepper, tea leaf, forest floor. Deliciously savory on the palate, bright and expressive, good dark fruit notes that carry through the finish very well.
** 13.5% ABV 93

Plô Roucarels – Plant du Roc 2014
IGP Cité de Carcassone
Light ruby in color. Soft, powdery red cherry fruit with a touch of plum, cocoa, licorice, and baking spice. Light and very balanced on the palate, medium plus finish with lingering dark fruit. Still very tight and wanting to expand in the future.
**+ 13.5% ABV 93+

Celler Masroig – Les Sorts Vinyes Velles 2013
DO Montsant
Ruby in color. Full, earthy dark fruit notes of cherry, orange peel, wild forest herbs, rich and layered. Lovely balance in the mouth with crisp fruits and extremely well-integrated acidity and a medium finish. Very fine wine.
** 15% ABV 93

Gènesi – Varietal Carinyena 2013
DO Montsant
Ruby with minor crest. Red cherries, orange peel, touch of attractive volatile smokiness, forest herbs and fruits, very wild bouquet overall. Weighty dark fruit on the palate that manages to stay put and not splash out everywhere. Wild and very attractive rusticity that creates a lingering finish.
** 14.5% ABV 93

Vinyes d’en Gabriel – Plan’elle 2014
DO Montsant
Dark ruby with minor rim. Dark cherries, prune, orange peel, violet and floral, very dark in general, brooding, minor earthy notes, wet clay. Wonderfully expressive on the palate, good amount of fruit but doesn’t ‘bomb’, keeps balance, fine tannins and great length.
** 15% ABV 93

Marco Abella – El Perer 2012
DOQ Priorat
Dark ruby with light garnet crest. Dark cherry, kirsch, very slatey mineral notes, black, strong licorice, light cranberry, fennel, and wild herb lift. Balanced and light on the palate, excellent integration on all points with a medium finish, full of crisp red fruit notes.
** 14.5% ABV 93

Mas Doix – 1902 2014
DOQ Priorat
Brambly red fruit of raspberry mixed with flecks of dark cherry and blueberry, light touches of anise, slate, and sweet thyme. Delicate on the palate with crisp red fruit notes and boundless energy from brisk acidity and very long finish.
** 14.5% ABV 93

Marco Abella – Roca Grisa 2015
DOQ Priorat
Opaque ruby. Crisp red fruit with lovely touches of laurel, sage, and wild herbs, forest berries, toasted brioche, and a light floral note. Full dark fruit on the palate with a wealthy grip of tannins and spiciness and a medium length finish.
** 14.5% ABV 93

Ripoll Sans – Ronçavall 2011
DOQ Priorat
Inky dark with light ruby rim. Dark cherries with mature plum, great quantity of herbal notes, forest floor, orange peel, and vibrant violet. Powdery, soft tannins in the mouth with a pinch of alcohol to it in the finish, but full and vibrant with licorice and anise notes in the finish. Very big, but still quite lovely wine from a tough vintage.
** 15.5% ABV 93

Sangenís i Vaqué – Clos Monlleó Selecció 2011
DOQ Priorat
Ruby with a glowing garnet hue. Vibrant red cherry fruit with a kick of cranberry crunch, fennel, wild herbs, licorice, touch of tar-like reduction that lifts, mineral notes, and light eucalyptus. Soft, refined tannins in the mouth and extremely elegant, powdery finish with a lovely floral lift.
** 14.5% ABV 93

Château Champ des Soeurs – La Tina 2015
AOC Fitou
Light ruby in color. Prune and dark cherry fruit with a powdery dose of cocoa and licorice, orange peel, delicate and floral with orchard blossoms. Light and very balanced on the palate, even tempered, fresh, and glowing with a medium plus finish and crisp acidity. Has small, minority portion of Grenache and Mourvèdre in the blend.
** 14.5% ABV 92

Domaine Jones – Les Perles Carignan 2013
AOC Fitou
Dark ruby color with the tiniest of garnet crest. Dark cherry, bit of prune, powdery cocoa, floral violet notes, lightest tinge of vanilla with tea leaves. Full wealth of acidity on the palate, cheery tannins that are already starting to mellow with excellent integration at the moment. Medium length finish but full of dark fruit notes.
**+ Q 14.5% ABV 92+ Q

Château la Barrone – Pièce de Roche 2013
IGP Aude Hautrive
Ruby in color with little rim variation. Rich and vibrant notes of dark cherry, prune, and black pepper, cumin, and orange peel. Forest fruits jumping at the corners. Excellent full weight on the palate with dark fruit character coming through very well and leading into a very lengthy finish.
** 14.5% ABV 92

Cedó Anguera – Clònic Vinyes Velles Bóta 2014
DO Montsant
Light ruby. Dark cherry, ripe plum, chocolate, orange peel, caramel, ropey licorice, violet and a bit of white pepper. Full, delicious embrace of the palate with rich, red creamy fruits, powdery tannins, and a long, lingering finish.
** 14.5% ABV 92

L’Infernal – Aguilera 2010
DOQ Priorat
Dark ruby, no crest. Rich red cherry, mature plum, touch of prune, orange peel, aged violets, minor leather and menthol. Creamy dark cherry in the mouth with very refined tannins and a bouyant acidity that pulls into a very long finish. Gains a touch of alcohol as it opens.
** 14.5% ABV 92

Clos del Portal – Tros de Clos 2015
DOQ Priorat
Dark ruby with minor garnet crest. Dark cherry, menthol, crisp mint, delicate prune, and light smoky notes. Savory, crisp red fruit on the palate with a healthy boost of tannins and a lingering finish.
** 14% ABV 92

Espelt – Old Vines Carignan 2014
DO Empordà
Dark ruby, light crest. Light red cherry and currant, menthol, talcum, mint, licorice, and minor reductive notes. Lovely balance on the palate with crisp red fruits and buoyant acidity that drives into a long, long finish.
** Q 13.5% ABV 92

Sainte Croix – Carignan 2015
Vins de France
Ruby with no rim variation. Dark cherry and prune, crunchy limestone notes, wild forest herbs, touch of mushroom, orange peel and fleshed out very well. Fresh fruit on the palate that comes out out with a touch of sweetness, crisp acidity and a lingering finish.
** 14.5% ABV 92

Vinyes d’Olivardots – Vd’O 2.11 2011
DO Empordà
Dark ruby with light crest. Light red cherry, very floral with rose petals and almond blossoms, crunchy minerality, light vanilla, and black pepper. Very upright on the palate with a mix of red and black fruit, balanced acidity but tannins that are still quite pronounced.
** 15.5% ABV 92

Domaine Bertrand-Bergé – Les Mégalithes 2015
AOC Fitou
Ruby, light rim variation. Dark and red cherry notes with underlying young plum, fresh and crisp orange peel as well as mint and licorice. Very good fruit definition on the palate, stays fresh and lifted while providing a lengthy finish. Touch of Grenache in the final blend.
** 14.5% ABV 91

Laugé Jean & Fils – Mas des Capitelles 2013
AOC Faugères
Ruby in color with little rim. Dark cherry with a bit of underlying prune, orange peel, licorice and black pepper. Rich and full on the palate with good tannic grip and a medium plus finish full of dark fruit notes. Small bit of Mourvèdre in the blend.
** 14% ABV 91

Clos d’Anhel – Les Dimanches 2014
AOC Corbières
Light ruby. Dark cherry with wild red fruits and a touch of prune at the base, peppery, with light baking spice, and licorice. Lovely stacked-up fruit on the palate that’s layered with good texture on the palate and a wealth of acidity to push the fruit into a long finish.
** 13.5% ABV 91

Domaine le Conte des Floris – Basaltique 2014
AOC Languedoc-Pézenas
Garnet in color with no rim variation. Bit reduced with crunchy red fruit, cranberry that gives was to cherry and white pepper, laurel. Very pleasing on the palate, balanced with the rich red fruit notes more pronounced, and a vibrant acidity that drives the finish. Disarmingly simple initially. Minor portions of other varieties in the blend.
** 14% ABV 91

Mas d’Amile – Vieux Carignan 2015
IGP Saint Guilhem le Désert
Inky ruby. Cured strawberries, orange peel, cigar, steely graphite, prune. Even and balanced on the palate, good lift on the finish with fine, pronounced acidity, and a lengthy finish. Needs more time to expand.
**+ 13% ABV 91+

Vinsnus – Siuralta Antic 2015
DO Montsant
Medium ruby with a garnet crest. Rich red and dark cherries with an underlying hint of plum. Baking spice, licorice, fennel, and crisp mintiness. Pure, vibrant, predominantly red fruit with a lively savory note to it and a full, balanced, and lingering finish.
** 14% ABV 91

Orto Vins – La Carrerada 2013
DO Montsant
Medium ruby. Dark cherry with underlying prune, touch of licorice, cured strawberries, mint, sage, and a bit of black pepper. Very nice, crisp balance on the palate. Lively with a touch of raisin notes in the finish.
** 14% ABV 91

Saó del Coster – La Pujada 2014
DOQ Priorat
Ruby with light crest. Delicate dark cherry notes with licorice and herbal underpinnings, lightly smoky and reductive, menthol, crunchy slate notes. Light red fruit in the mouth, very balanced, crisp, lilting with energetic acidity that carries to a medium finish.
** 14.5% ABV 91

Espelt – Coma Bruna 2015
DO Empordà
Dark ruby with no crest. Rich red cherry and crunchy cranberry notes, wild fennel, and licorice with a kick of black pepper and candied strawberry. Rich, full, succulent mouth with a brace of tannins carrying through the wine and a hit of oak that’s still integrating.
** 15% ABV 91

La Vinyeta – Samsó Bòta 2015
DO Empordà
Inky ruby with light rose crest. Dark cherry with underlying prune, black pepper, fennel, anise, and toasted caramel. Youthful and expressive in the mouth with crisp acidity, well-formed tannins and a long finish.
** 14.5% ABV 91

Vinyes del Grau – Mon Iaio Sisco Vinyes Velles de Samsò 2012
DO Terra Alta
Inky ruby with light brick rim. Dense dark cherry, violet floral aromas, licorice, orange peel, light mineral clay notes, spicy fennel. Dark fruit body, vibrant acidity, stays generally fresh in the mouth despite the overall density of the wine. Alcohol comes up a touch in the finish along with crunchy red fruit notes.
** 15% ABV 91

Balmaprat – Dempeus Selecció 2010
DOQ Priorat
Ruby with developed garnet rim. Dense prune, black cherry, cloves, black pepper, earthy tertiary notes, touch of saddle leather, wild forest herbs. Mix of dark and red fruits on the palate, quite light and balanced in structure overall, albeit a shorter finish.
** 15% ABV 91

Roig Parals – Camí de Cormes 2013
DO Empordà
Light ruby, garnet rim. Red cherry with red forest fruits, underlying licorice, cloves, violet floral notes, minor vanilla, and toast. Red, crisp fruits in the mouth with medium plus acidity, very fine tannins, and a lengthy, savory finish.
** 14.5% ABV 91

Castell de Perelada – Finca la Garriga 2013
DO Empordà
Dark ruby. Predominantly dark fruit, cherry, bit of plump blueberry, vanilla and toasted notes, light jamminess, and general sweet perfume. Rich and creamy in texture, needs more time to integrate but full, enveloping dark fruits and a balanced acidity that pull out a lengthy finish.
** 14.5% ABV 91

Domaine Les Eminades – Vielles Canailles 2014
AOC Saint-Chinian
Light ruby in color. Initially a bit reduced and up front, plays out well to release a mix of light and dark cherry notes, wild herbs, and garrigue. Very well-handled on the palate, balanced and even with a crisp, spicy lift in the finish.
** 14% ABV 90

Clos du Gravillas – Lo Vièlh 2015
IGP Côtes du Brian
Ruby with no rim. Rich dark cherry and light stony notes, sage, licorice, wild spices. Very balanced and direct on the palate with full fruit that pulls to a longer finish. Good base but could be fleshed out a touch more.
** 14% ABV 90

J.M. Ribert – Carignator 2015
Vin de France
Ruby color. Dark cherry, red licorice, light mineral limestone notes, laurel and a touch of forest floor. Rich and savory in the mouth, very full on the front of the palate but a bit hollow in the middle while leading to a lengthy finish.
** 13% ABV 90

Vendrell-Rived – La Miloquera Carinyena vVlla 2015
DO Montsant
Light ruby. dark fruit, good base of prune and dark cherry, gingerbread, and menthol. Nicely balanced in the mouth, chewy in consistency, full and pleasant into the finish with lingering dark fruit notes.
** 15% ABV 90

Celler Sant Rafel – Solpost Carinyena 2015
DO Montsant
Garnet color. Light red cherry with a touch of vanilla, tea leaf, tobacco, fresh strawberry, and licorice. Fresh and balanced on the palate with the red fruit notes more dominate as well as buttery texture and a good overall finish.
** 14.5% ABV 90

Sabaté i Mur Vertical 2009
DOQ Priorat
Medium ruby, minor crest. Rich, candied red fruits, ripe red cherry and raspberry, touch of minty-ness, good backbone of mineral notes, and a bed of wild sage and fennel with buttery orange peel coming out with air. Light and crisp red fruits on the palate. Good persistence and density but falling off a bit in the finish.
** 15% ABV 90

Ripoll Sans – 5 Partides 2011
DOQ Priorat
Dark ruby with minor rim. Dark cherry, toasted notes, cedar, menthol, sage, licorice, minor bit of orange peel, and violet floral notes. Lively blend of dark and red fruits but lacking a bit of acidity drive in the body.
** 16.5% ABV 90

Aixalà Alcait – Coster de l’Alzina 2015
DOQ Priorat
Inky black ruby. Dense black fruit of cherry and prune, touch raisin, orange peel, toasted hazelnut, fennel. Good brace of dark fruit on the palate with pleasing acidity driving the finish but lacking a bit of extra push.
** 14.5% ABV 90

Edetària – Finca la Pedrissa 2014
DO Terra Alta
Ruby with light cresting. Light red cherry, gentle herbal notes, fresh, young strawberries, touch of sweet marmalade, almond blossom. Very light and crisp on the palate. Good display of red fruit, grippy tannins, and a medium finish.
** 14% ABV 90

Domaine Tour Boisèe – Marie-Claude et Jean-Louis Poudou – Carignan 2016
IGP Coteaux de Peyriac
Dark ruby in color. Notes of dark cherry, mature prune, pomegranate, touch of herbs, licorice, pinch of leather and orange peel. Light and balanced on the palate, good fruit definition, medium finish with a bit of tightness in the finish.
* 14% ABV 89

Domaine Vaquer – L’Expression 2016
IGP Côtes Catalanes
Glowing ruby verging on violet. Light, subtle notes of dark cherry, plump forest fruits, light strawberry marmalade. Balanced and very even in the mouth with a touch of sweetness to it, candied aspect a touch more prominent but carries a very long finish.
* 14% ABV 89

Château Montfin – Mathilde 2013
AOC Corbières
Ruby with light rim variation. Lightly sweet dark cherry and prune notes, wild herbs, forest fruits, blueberry, and stony mineral notes. Full bodied with good frontal attack on the palate, wide and full of expressive spicy fruit into the medium length finish.
* 14.5% ABV 89

Calavon – Carignan 2013
Vin de France
Ruby in color, mild rim. Bit of reduction initially, dark cherry, orange peel, wild forest fruits, and blueberry notes, light bit of tea leaf and almond blossom. Rich and structured on the palate with a wealth of tannins balanced by solid acidity that pushes the fruit to a lengthy finish.
* 13% ABV 89

Domaine Ferrer-Ribiere – Carignan Empreinte du Temps 2015
IGP Côtes Catalanes
Ruby. Lightly sweet red cherry notes with a bit of plum, touch racy in the nose with wild herbs and sage that come out with air. Quite full and balanced on the body with rich fruit notes that carry into the finish.
* 14.5% ABV 89

Domaine de Barroubio – Jean Miquel Vieilles Vignes 2015
AOC Minervois
Ruby. Light red cherry with a pinch of young strawberry, very fresh and alive, black pepper, licorice, tea leaf, and cured orange peel. Rich on the mouth and balanced but with a shorter finish.
* 14.5% ABV 89

Pascona – La Maria Ganxa 2016
DO Montsant
Light ruby verging on garnet. Red and dark cherry notes, crisp red currant, menthol, light bit of smokiness. Rich and full young fruit in the mouth, more red fruit dominant with a pinch of spicy alcohol notes in the finish.
* Q 13.5% ABV 89 Q

Aixalà Alcait – Les Clivelles de Torroja 2015
DOQ Priorat
Ruby with light bricking at the rim. Vanilla red cherry, soft violet floral notes, orange peel, caramel, and a prick of reduction at the bottom of the aromas. Delicate in the mouth with red fruit aromas more prevalent and a wealth of soft tannins making for a chewy texture. Boundless energy with the vibrant acidity but with a prick of alcohol in the finish.
* 14.5% ABV 89

Espelt – Terres Negres 2014
DO Empordà
Dark ruby with no crest. Hits of red cherry and strawberry fruit, chocolate, blueberry, and ripe forest fruits, touch of alcohol in the nose. Wide and toasted on the palate with a great wealth of tannins but a bit thin in the finish.
* 14.5% ABV 89

Álvarez Duran – Terroir X de Viña Vieja 2015
DOQ Priorat
Ruby with a garnet rim. Dark cherry with a rustic note of volatile acidity, ripe prunes, light bit of licorice, potent mineral slate notes. Full and structured red fruit with a great wealth of acidity pushing it through to a quite lengthy and full-fruited finish. Very minor amounts of Grenache and Picapoll in the blend.
* 14.5% ABV 88

Domaine Lanye-Barrac – L’Infini 2016
IGP Pays d’Hérault
Garnet verging on ruby in color. Dark prune and a bit of carbon, minor sage notes. Even on the palate with good dark cherry notes with a sharp prick of acidity that lifts the finish. Should be drank very soon.
*- 15% ABV 88

Cedó Anguera Anexe – Vinyes Velles de Carignane 2016
DO Montsant
Dark ruby with a dark garnet crest. Red cherry notes with a whiff of reduction, orange peel, powdery cocoa, and garrigue. Quite upright on the palate with a soft underbelly of tannic structure. Medium finish with a touch of astringency to it.
* 14.5% ABV 88

Vinyes d’en Gabriel – Coma Valdà 2014
DO Montsant
Medium ruby. Dark and red cherry notes with a bit of young plum, light touch of matchstick reduction, mint and eucalytupus. Light and balanced in the mouth with good overall texture but lacking in depth.
* 15% ABV 88

Alfredo Arribas – Trossos Vells 2013
DO Montsant
Ruby. Red cherries with a good deal of reduction initially, wild forest fruit, light bit of white pepper, and a bit of coffee. Much more fresh on the palate with nice young plum notes and a medium finish.
* 14% ABV 88

Celler de Capçanes – La Flor del Flor de Primavera 2013
DO Montsant
Light ruby color, bordering on garnet. Fresh red cherry notes with a bit of young plum, light floral, almond blossom, licorice, and light leather. Light and pleasing on the mouth. Bit candied in the mid palate and the finish. Kosher certified.
* 15% ABV 88

Celler de Capçanes – Els “Parajos” 2015
DO Montsant
Light ruby. Dark cherry, kirsch, bit of reduction upon first opening, toasted notes, and minor spice. Spicy red fruits in the body, let’s on the alcohol, pulls into a medium-long finish.
* 15% ABV 88

Celler Comunica – Vinya Goretti 2015
DO Montsant
Ruby with minor cresting. Red cherry with a good deal of orange peel, minor licorice, mint, and underlying reductive notes. Balanced in the mouth with crisp red fruits, but a bit hollow in the mid palate and a medium finish.
* 13.5% ABV 88

L’Infernal – Fonsclar 2014
DOQ Priorat
Ruby in color with light garnet rim. Crisp red cherry with a bit of cranberry, minor licorice and mint notes. Fresh and lively red fruit on the palate but lacking a good degree of integration.
* 14% ABV 88

Cooperativa de Gandesa – Puresa 2013
DO Terra Alta
Lighter ruby. Dark cherry with underlying prune, generally rather closed but with minor herbal notes coming through and baking spice. Pleasing red fruit, young plum on the palate but a short finish with lower acidity.
* 14.5% ABV 88

Germans Balart – Set Sitis 2014
DO Terra Alta
Ruby with light garnet rim. Red cherry and young plum, light foral notes, clay minerality, crisp mintiness, and a touch of mushroom. Mix of red and dark fruit on the palate, quite chewy and rich with a solid mid palate, but medium finish.
* 14% ABV 88

Domaine de Cébène – Belle Lurette 2015
AOC Faugères
Garnet with no rim variation. Bit crunchy in the nose with initial reductive notes that give way to dark cherry and leafy sage, forest floor. Bit of a sweeter profile on the mouth with more red cherry aspects and crunchier cranberry notes with a medium length finish.
* 13% ABV 87

Dirk Vermeersch – LePlan-Vermeersch GT-C 2014
Vin de France
Ruby with light rim variation. Powdery dark cherry and light plum notes with wild herbs, dark forest fruits, and orange peel notes. Very light and reserved in the body with generally soft finish.
* 14% ABV 87

Mas des Quernes – Le Blaireau Vieux Carignan 2016
IGP Hérault
Dark ruby in color. Strawberry marmalade with dark prune notes, quite ripe and fleshy, light wild herbs, black pepper and sweet licorice. Quite fresh on the palate with light touches of reduction and a very crisp acidity that leads into a medium finish.
* 12.5% ABV 87

Celler Masroig – Samsó 2015
DO Montsant
Dark ruby in color. Light touch of reduction, dark cherries, orange peel, strawberry marmalade, pruney and crunchy chalk with a bit of licorice. Full with dark fruit notes on the palate, powdery texture as it opens, but a bit hollow midway through and a short finish.
* 14.5% ABV 87

Domaine de Montfin – Carignena 2015
AOC Corbières
Dark ruby color, minor rim. Bit of reduction initially, more red fruit driven, gives way to licorice, tar, and light rose petal notes. Medium weight on the palate, fruit is more stretched out and elaborated, rather short finish. Perhaps a touch of Grenache in the final blend.
* 14% ABV 86

Michel Campillo – Carignan Vieilles Vignes 2015
Vin de France
Ruby. Sweet red cherry with a strawberry marmalade, peppery, spicy, hit of anise. Full, sweet red fruit in the mouth that comes into a rather short finish.
* 14.5% ABV 86

Celler Masroig – Solà Fred 2016
DO Montsant
Garnet color. Young red cherry and plum, touch of reduction, limestone mineral notes, heavy licorice and allspice. Dark fruit on the palate, generally balanced with a bit of a lift at the end.
* 14% ABV 86

Domaine Rimbert – J.M. Ribert – Jarrignan 2015
Vin de France
Light garnet in color, good degree of rim variation. Fresh strawberry and rhubarb in the nose along with light wildflower and chamomile, almond blossoms. Light on the palate and fresh but with little persistence in the finish. Doesn’t show a great deal of varietal character.
* 12.5% ABV 85

Vendrell-Rived – Miloca 2016
DO Montsant
Ruby with light garnet. Crisp red cherries, simple licorice and herbal notes, waft of reduction. Simple, direct red cherry notes on the palate. Crisp and lively acidity but with a medium short finish.
* 14.5% ABV 85

Vins del Tros – Tremenda 2013
DO Terra Alta
Ruby with garnet crest. Dark cherry with a good wealth of herbal notes. Quite a bit of reduction at the onset. Light violet aromas, minor spicy notes of licorice. Wide and buttery on the palate but with a good deal of unbridled acidity to it, short finish.
* 15% ABV 85

Tasting of White & Gris Carignan Wines

There are both a White and Gris mutation of the grape which aren’t found in great quantity but I did receive a few samples of it as well as a dessert wine that you can find below. Scores started at 91 but went down from there as this particular variation of the grape still needs a good deal of work to get to reach a higher level. Other samples I’ve tasted can run rampant with reduction and crazy high levels of acidity.

Domaine le Conte des Floris – Cartagène Blanche NV

Light straw and honey notes with a litling, almond nuttiness, fresh white pear. Fresh lemon fruit on that palate, vibrant with good acidity to balance out the fruit and a long finish.
** 16% ABV 91

La Vinyeta – Microvins C. Blanca Acàcia 2016
DO Empordà
Lemon color. White pear and grated lemon peel, very light almond blossom, resinous. Good weight on the palate, manages to stay fresh and alive, with a good chewy texture and citric notes that carry through to the finish. Acacia aging works wonderfully with this grape.
** 14% ABV 90

La Vinyeta – Microvins C. Blanca Roure 2016
DO Empordà
Light straw. Aged green apple, brioche, toasted notes, wild herb notes with nutty touch of almond. Full and very expressive on the palate. Good, toasted weight of the barrel although it still needs to integrate more. Long finish.
** 14% ABV 90

Domaine le Conte des Floris – Lune Blanche 2014
AOC Languedoc
Straw like in color. Grapefruit, crunchy green pea and crisp young green pear, tiny bit of brioche and buttery notes. Good width on the palate, lemon pith and citric notes come more into play. Bright and crisp, medium short finish.
* 13.5% ABV 89

Domaine Jones – Les Perles Carignan Gris 2015
AOC Fitou
White pear, waxy floral notes, touch of honey and chamomile, straw. Moderately high acidity in the mouth, crisp green fruit notes. Alcohol a bit present in the finish but overall juicy and lively.
* 13% ABV 88

Vinyes d’Olivardots – Vd’O 6.13 2013
DO Empordà
Light straw in color. Green pear, light apple blossom notes, minty, spring peas, touch of mushroom. Tart lemon notes with a kick of vanilla in the mouth, medium acidity, and a shorter finish.
* 13% ABV 88

La Vinyeta – Microvins C. Blanca Castanyer 2016
DO Empordà
Light lemon. Crisp red apple, herbal notes of tarragon, sage, green almond. Wide on the palate, more baking spice and white pepper notes come forward with a medium finish to it. Late harvest.
* 14% ABV 88

Jeff Carrel – Carignan Blanc “sur lit en mouvement” 2015
Vin de France
Very light, translucent lemon color. Grapey, muscat nose bit of straw notes and cured lemon, red apple. Crisp and full of orchard fruit on the mouth but still a bit oxidized with a short finish.
* 11.5% ABV 86