Monday, July 18, 2011
Carignan: With Old Age, Nobility?
Martine Pages and her brother Christophe Moliner run Domaine de la Bouysse, a 124-acre property in Saint Andre de Roquelongue, in the heart of the Corbières region. About one-fifth of their land is in the Boutenac commune, where the soil combines clay, limestone, and quartz pebbles.
The 2007 Corbières Boutenac Cuvée Mazérac is made with 60% very old Carignan vines from Boutenac (80 to 110 years old) 20% Grenache, and 10% Mourvedre. All the grapes are hand-harvested. The Carignan undergoes carbonic maceration, for greatest freshness of fruit and color extraction. The Grenache and Mourvedre are destemmed and conventionally vinified in temperature-controlled stainless. Once blended, the wine is aged 12 months in French oak barrels.
On the nose, cooked strawberry and plum, with hints of licorice, cocoa, and roasted herbs. In the mouth, bright fruit and that deluxe, pinot noir-like mouthfeel that imparts richness without weight. With time in the glass, the wine reveals more dark fruit, and the texture softens while retaining a sense of freshness. Experiences like this are beginning to make me think that Carignan, so long dismissed as high-yielding easy-growing material for the production of vin ordinaire, is in fact—given the necessary four decades or so to find itself—capable of nobility. This was $20 at the Asheville Wine Market, and worth every penny.
The Chef, in an acquiescent mood, made us a dinner to go with the wine, and the ingredients were mostly local: Hangar steak from Hickory Nut Gap (rare, yeah!), baba ganoush made with local eggplant and garlic, local corn, and local green and red tomatoes. And a few foreign interlopers: Fancy Italian olive oil (Tiburtini, from La Ferrata Tivoli, first cold pressing, organically grown, unfiltered, from Villa Adriana in Lazio, blah-blah-blah.) And frozen “oven fries” from Alexia, which were done on the grill—not exactly a failure, but not in the same league with the rest of dinner. (The Chef wishes to point out that the frozen taters were my idea, not hers, and that she would have served local fingerlings, cut and brushed with olive oil, and done on the grill, and that they would have taken just as long and tasted better. So there.)