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MELI Carignan 2010
Critical AcclaimAll Vintages
In 2005, she and her three adult sons bought a property with 60-year-old Carignane and Riesling vines in the Maule Valley. Using dry farming, Meli produces two unique wines — both unusual for Chile. These varieties, Riesling and Carignane, are well-suited to the cooler Maule Valley, where the growing season is long, with cool nights and warm days.
One of South America’s most important wine-producing countries, Chile is a reliable source of both budget-friendly wines and premium bottlings. Spanish settlers, Juan Jufre and Diego Garcia de Cáceres, most likely brought Vitis vinifera (Europe’s wine producing vine species) to the Central Valley of Chile some time in the 1550s. But Chile’s modern wine industry is largely the result of heavy investment from the 1990s.
Long and narrow, Chile is geographically isolated, bordered by the Pacific Ocean to the west, the Andes Mountains to the east and the Atacama desert to the north. These natural borders allowed Chile to avoid the disastrous phylloxera infestation in the late 1800s and as a result, vines are often planted on their own rootstock rather than grafted (as is the case in much of the wine producing world).
Chile’s vineyards vary widely in climate and soil type from north to south. The Coquimbo region in the far north contains the Elqui and Limari Valleys, where minimal rainfall and intense sunlight are offset by chilly breezes from the Humboldt Current. While historically focused solely on Pisco production, today this area finds success with Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. The Aconcagua region contains the eponymous Aconcagua Valley—hot and dry and home to full-bodied red wines made from Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah and Merlot—as well as Casablanca Valley and San Antonio Valley, which focus on Pinot Noir, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc. The Central Valley is home to the Maipo, Rapel, Curicó and Maule Valleys, which produce a wide variety of red and white wines. Maipo in particular is known for Carmenère, Chile’s unofficial signature grape. In the up-and-coming southern regions of Bio Bio and Itata make excellent Riesling, Chardonnay and Pinot Noir.
Responsible for some of the most stunning old vine red wine on the planet, Carignan has an amazing capacity to survive dry, arid climates and still produce lovely, mouthwatering wine. In Spain it goes by the name of Mazuelo and while it may have originated there in the province of Aragón (with Grenache), its popularity lies elsewhere. It spread across countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, becoming ubiquitous throughout the south of France. Today it flourishes as a blending grape in the Languedoc-Roussillon and also growns in Sardinia, mainland Italy, Turkey, Cyprus, Croatia and Northern Africa. Likewise, producers in the New World—namely California and Chile—bottle excellent single-varietal Carignan wines.
In the Glass
This is a medium-bodied wine with dried cranberry and raspberry fruit. It can take on an attractive savory quality with alluring notes of baking spice, black tea, black licorice or earth.
Try Carignan with seared ahi, roasted turkey or duck, lamb gyros or chops, aged Gouda or Manchego and cured meats.
Historically Carignan did not enjoy the respect that it does today. In the mid 20th century, Carignan covered nearly 140,000 ha in Algeria, where it was made into low quality bulk and blending wine to supply mass-market demand.