May 10, 2016
It was the day I spent with Maxime Magnon in his hillside vineyards near Villeneuve les Corbières when I began to develop an appreciation for Carignan. It was a beautiful spring day in 2008, and I had arranged for a short visit with Magnon whose wines we had just begun to import.
Our winemaker Tadeo Borchardt was with me, and we began with a morning tour of the vineyards. Maxime’s parcels are all planted to old vines – most of them more than 100 years old – and we spent several hours climbing about the various hills and meadows that he farms — an acre here, two acres there, all of them at high elevation, all of them on rocky soil, and all of them comprised of gnarly old vines that seemed barely able to support a meager crop.
‘Carignan is a noble grape,’ Maxime told us. ‘But the yield must be kept low to realize its full potential. Working with old vines insures a naturally low yield.’
We wended our way back to Maxime’s cellars where we tasted through his various bottlings of Carignan: wine from old vines planted on Schist, wine from old vines on sand, wine from old vines on limestone and clay, and wine from old vines on a mix of soils. Each wine was a revelation — bright, fresh, loaded with character and complexity, and each was something I wanted to buy for my cellar.
We followed our tasting with an al fresco lunch of calamari steaks, marinated in garlic, olive oil and local herbs, then grilled outdoors amidst those 100-year-old vines on old grapevine trunks that had been pulled for replanting. I don’t know that I’ve ever had a better day in my life.
We returned home soon after that and life returned to normal – for a week any way. Then Tadeo called. ‘I’ve found a vineyard planted to Carignan. The vines are about 125 years old, the soil is sandy with some gravel, and the owner would love to sell us the crop. Are you interested?’ Yes, I was interested. I felt like I’d just won the lottery. We’ve purchased those grapes grown by Frank Evangelho in Oakley ever since.
The 2014 Neyers Carignan ‘Evangelho Vineyard’ was just bottled, and it’s now ready to sell. It’s one of the group of ‘Natural Wines’ we make at Neyers Vineyards.
The grapes are crushed by foot — not by machine — as we like to retain 100% of the stems and don’t want them broken; we ferment using only the native, wild yeast trapped on the skins of the grapes; the malo-lactic fermentation takes place with the bacteria that exists in the cooperage; there is a minimum use of added SO2 at the end of the aging, just before bottling; the wine is neither fined nor filtered.
Everything that the grapes from those century-old vines have to give goes into this wine. It lends new use to the term ‘Noble’.
2014 Carignan ‘Evangelho Vineyard’ – $35/bottle
210 cases produced