“Welcome to the fight.” Do you recognize that quote? Actually, the real line was “Welcome back to the fight.” But I don’t know for sure if Asimov was in the fight to begin with, and if he was, I don’t know that he left. Which is all a little obtuse, I realize. Here’s a hint on the quote:
It’s from “Casablanca.” Unquestionably the best movie ever made.
But what about Carignane? Well, somehow this article slipped under my radar back in October, but Eric Asimov, that highly esteemed member of the wine intelligentsia who writes the wonderful blog The Pour for The New York Times, recently penned an article for his blog about the oft-maligned varietal that is Carignane. And he came out swinging in its defense which, if you’re a reader of this blog, you’ll know is the same side of the fence I plant my big black boots on. The article was titled “Give A Grape A Chance,” and that pretty clearly lays out his mission statement.
In the tasting room, when discussing this varietal, I always concede that Carignane does indeed get a bad rap. But my sense is that this disrespectful summation has long been a case of blaming the grape for the method. A parallel example would be, say, Chardonnay. It too has gotten a bad rap over the years, but again, it’s a case of blaming the grape for the method. Chardonnay didn’t ask to be flabby and over-oaked, and it wasn’t born that way. Flabbiness and over-oakedness get thrust upon it, and when that approach becomes the dominant paradigm, eventually the lines separating the grape and the method blur, and the recriminations begin.
The same can be said of Carignane. Here is the opening salvo fired by Asimov in his article:
To call the carignan grape much maligned doesn’t begin to capture the contempt many people in the wine trade have for this poor grape.
And for what? For centuries of overcropping? For being planted in the wrong places? For making thin, astringent, acidic wines that can vary from inconsequential to brutal? That’s supposed to be the grape’s fault?
Not a dissimilar line of inquiry from a recent post (from June) on this blog, which carried the following title/mission statement:
So as you can see, Asimov and I are on the same wavelength here. And I believe you should be too. Carignane is capable of producing wines of exquisite complexity, and it structure-forward presentation of vivacious acidity, crisp herbality, and savory fruit makes it an ideal wine for the table; any table, practically. I’ve tried our Carignanes with Indian curries, and come away dazzled. I’ve had them with Thai Green Curry, and loved the pairing. I’ve had our Carignanes with roasted tomatoes and fennel, and nearly fainted from an excess of pleasure. I’ve had our Carignanes with such a wide array of cuisines I’m tempted to go looking for an upscale version of the word “utilitarian” to describe it; upscale because utilitarian, while certainly indicating the wide array of culinary possibility this wine evidences, doesn’t seem to do justice to the grace with which it performs this service. Hmmmm…
Anyhow, the point is that Carignane, when given methodological respect, begets wines worthy of respect. I believe it, and it appears Eric Asimov believes it as well.
Do you? Come taste our 2007 Buchignani Ranch Carignane this weekend, so that I may welcome you to the fight!