America’s Most Wanted Tasting – London

Garage Wine Co. Dry-Farmed Old Bush Vine Carignan 2010

by Gareth Groves – London

There were an awful lot of fantastic wines at our Americas’ Most Wanted Tasting on Tuesday: old Californian Pinots from Calera, the latest releases of Catena’s stunning single vineyard Malbecs and Corison Cabernet to name but a few.

However, the wine that really made me smile is a tiny-production, old vine Carignan from Chile. Made by a Canadian chap called Derek Mossman, it celebrates one of the world’s most maligned grapes.

Carignan can be awful – most of what Andrew Jefford describes as southern France’s ‘petrol pump red’ is made from it. The combination of fertile soils, high yields and winemakers more interested in quantity than quality can produce tough, boring wine that won’t even wash down a saucisson baguette.

It can also be wonderful – I love some old vine examples from Roussillon and Emporda, either side of the Pyrenees. Here the vines are old, the soils are rocky and the mountainous, coastal climate is given to extremes of heat, cold and wind. The result is wines that are full of fruit, spice, minerality and character.

Garage Wine Co. Dry-Farmed Old Bush Vine Carignan 2010 is the closest I have found to those wines in the New World.

As the name gives away, it is made from dry farmed old bush vines in Maule. Wine writers including Tim Atkin and Jancis Robinson (subscription needed for link) have recently noted the outstanding quality of this terroir. Mr Mossmann himself recently won the extremely worthwhile Geoffrey Roberts Travel Award to work with farmers to protect these vines in the wake of the 2010 earthquake,  and to help unleash their potential.

The Garage Wine Co. really does everything on an artisan scale: tiny vats, wild yeasts, hand pumping, hand bottling in reused glass with handpainted labels. The company was one of the founder’s of the incredibly exciting MOVI group which has brought together boutique wineries from across the country in an attempt to subvert the general perception that Chile is the home of Big Wineries and precious little else.

The wine itself is simply delicious. My notes linger on the incredible pot pourri perfume that jumped out of the glass – violets, dried roses, damson jam. The palate is pure and focused with lovely depth of sweet purple fruit and very ripe tannins. As the flavours rumble on, it hints at a darker Dr Jekyll side to the fruit. The finish is a return to the light: fresh, bracing, bright and mouthwatering.

Just fantastic.