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La Font de L’Olivier, Carignan Vieilles Vignes, 2003

July 2, 2008

~$15US, 100% Carignan, Vin de Pays des cotes de Thongue, Languedoc, France

The Carignan grape has been quietly awakening in old parcels of land surrounding the Mediterrean for the past decade. The grape was an easy bet in creating the ‘jug-wines’ of 19th and early 20th century – due to the vine’s high production and vigor. Since then, many very old plots have been grafted over to the more ‘marketable’ varieties like Cabernet, Merlot and Syrah.

Luckily, a good amnount remains, and vignerons are focusing on taking advantage of these old, ‘wise’ vines. In Priorat, Carignan’s importance has been recognised as a key component (sometimes sole varietal)  in world-class wines, so long as yields are controlled and the wine is carefully vinified. Similar old plantings exist throughout Southern France, where the same care is being used to restore the vineyards- and wine-making techniques like carbonic maceration and whole-cluster fermentation can improve Carignan’s expressiveness and strength.

All that being said, the 100% Varietal Font de L’Olivier is a solid artisanal French wine for $15. Milk-chocolate covered-cherries give way to a very straight, honestly-structured wine. It begins and ends stronger than the midpalate, but there is enough going on to keep things interesting…like good acidity and big tannins, some secondary herby and licorice flavors. Very dry, even after lots of breathing-time, but moutherwatering finish. The stucture here make this a natural food partner, and I’d go with a fattier meat, like duck or sausages.  Old-word styling – It’s probably not going to convert any hardcore-Shiraz drinkers,  but I’d recommend it to them anyway just to try something out of-the-box/critter-kennel.

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