Carignan, My Wayward Son 05/05/11
At long last, it’s Cinco de Mayo – the day where everyone’s a little Mexican, and it’s only proper for even the most truculent of teetotalers to throw back a shot or seven of tequila, scarf down some enchiladas, and unsuccessfully attempt to suppress the activities of the seemingly inexorable network of merciless drug cartels whom widespread coercion and murder have allowed to infiltrate every sphere of government resulting in a veritable stranglehold of corruption on his nation’s infrastructure.
But dear readers, my subject is wine, and once again, I must confess to having been unduly influenced in my selection process by the good folks over at Twitter. The #Bteam Mafia continues to shape the course of my joyous journey of global grapes, through their efforts to bring underappreciated varietals into that glorious limelight they so deserve. With this common goal, we’ve banded together – in much the same way as a band might.
Anyway, the grape chosen for this week was Carignan. Although a relatively easy grape to grow, with high yields and plantings all over the world, Carignan is rarely found as a single-varietal wine, often blended with other grapes instead (Grenache is a popular choice). Even so, Carignan has garnered a bit of attention lately as a solo performer – so all tweets aside, it was probably time for me to climb aboard that bandwagon anyway.
In keeping with the spirit of the holiday, I still decided to go for something south of the border. Unfortunately, my chances of finding Mexican wine in a Pennsylvania State Store weren’t very bueno, so instead I picked up a Carignan from Chile: a land even further down (in a strictly longitudinal sense, of course; Chile is one of my very favorite countries for wine). The Oveja Negra Single Vineyard 2009 Carignan, my first wine from Maule Valley as well as my first Carignan, ran me $23 – more than I usually like to spend, but less than I usually spend.
Visually, this wine was pretty impressive: deep, dark, there-is-no-escape purple, with lighter garnet tones around the rim. On the nose I detected notes of chocolate, blackberry, spice and after breathing, blueberry, along with notable alcoholic heat. The palate, with flavors of plum, pepper and wood, had a great, velvety texture but also seemed to have excessive alcohol, acidity and tannins all at the same time – which I guess amounts to a sort of balance after all. In a word, it was powerful.
The Oveja Negra actually included 8% Carmenere grapes – an additional Chilean twist, I suppose – but keep in mind that in most regions around the world, 92% is more than enough, legally speaking, for the name of a grape to go on the label (in California, for instance, only 75% of your Pinot Noir actually has to be Pinot Noir). I can’t say for sure to what extent the Carmenere influenced this wine, but I can say that on the whole, it came across as turbulent – tormented, even. I think a few years tucked away in a quiet cellar would do it some good.
I award the Oveja Negra thumbs up for now, but I’m strongly considering picking up another and letting it age for a while: I feel it has some serious potential.