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Details for Élevé Carignan, Vieilles Vignes


CountryFrance
Region
Languedoc-Roussillon
(click to find out more)
Appellation Pays d'Herault
Grape
Year2015
Producer
ABV12.5%


Languedoc-Roussillon

These two vast Mediterranean areas have been a hotbed of experimentation and innovation for French wines.
 
Roussillon is the smaller, western region bordering Spain. The vineyards are very hot and dry and Grenache thrives in these arid conditions. It is especially famous for fortified Vin Doux Naturels like Rivesaltes, Maury and Banyuls, made mostly from that grape. Unfortified wines from the area are called Collioure, made from Grenache but with plenty of Syrah and Mourvèdre added to the mix. Côtes de Roussillon wine is made with Carignan and Cinsault as well as Syrah and Mourvèdre. Côtes de Roussillon Villages is a step up and Côtes du Roussillon Les Aspres is even more so.
 
The Languedoc, to the east, is split into several significant sub-regions according to climatic and geographical influences. The reds of Minervois, Corbières and Fitou are good quality and value for money. Limoux is a region gaining a reputation for its sparkling wines made from Mauzac, Chardonnay and Chenin Blanc. Where Languedoc meets the Rhône river, the Côteaux du Languedoc is an important appellation, as too are St Chinian, Faugères, Clairette de Languedoc and Picpoul de Pinet.
 
But it is the various IGTs (formerly Vins de Pays) that have really driven innovation. Their more relaxed regulation of grape varieties and production methods have allowed winemakers freedom to experiment, making this the most New World of French wine regions.


LGI Wines

Founded in 1999 and based in Carcassonne in Languedoc, LGI was the brainchild of Alain Grignon, formerly of the Foncalieu co-operative group, who had the vision of making inexpensive wines designed specifically for the export market. In this he was helped at the beginning by English merchant, and ex-Waitrose buyer, Mark Lynton MW. The wines are sold under a variety of export-friendly brand names including Rare Vineyards and Élevé.
 
Most of the wines are sourced from a number of cooperatives, the majority along an arc between Carcassonne and Béziers, with some fruit also coming from Limoux and from further afield in Gascony. The winemaking and bottling is supervised by Xavier Roger, a Sancerrois, recently promoted to chief executive. LGI is also able to act as broker for several top estates, including Domaine Barroubio in Saint-Jean de Minervois and Christophe Barbier in La Clape.
 

about this wine About this wine


Forty years ago Carignan was the most planted black grape in Europe, covering most of southern France and large areas of northern Spain. It was still the commonest black grape in France until the turn of the century, despite nearly three decades of government incentives to grub it up and plant something else instead.
 
Carignan’s popularity stemmed from its extraordinary yields - more than four times higher than Cabernet Sauvignon. However, it’s hard to ripen, requiring hot climates, and when underripe its ferocious acidity and hard tannins can make it very nasty indeed. This didn’t matter if the EU were going to buy up any wine you couldn’t sell, at a guaranteed price, so most Carignan ended up in the notorious EU wine lake.
 
Any Carignan ripe enough to drink was used in blends, contributing colour, acidity and tannin to paler, fruitier grapes like Grenache. You will have drunk it in Rioja, Corbières, Minervois and Saint-Chinian without knowing it.
 
But old-vine Carignan can produce lovely wine if properly handled, and today a new crop of French winemakers are championing this once-reviled grape, and even making unblended, single-varietal wines out of it.
 
This is one of those, made from 40 to 60-year-old vines grown on the sunny slopes around the village of Cruzy, in the western Hérault just to the south of Saint-Chinian. Indeed many of them lie within the Saint-Chinian AOC and the rest within the Coteaux de Languedoc AOC - but the respective AOC rules impose a limit of 30% or 50% Carignan in the blend, so this wine has to use the less restrictive Pays d'Hérault IGT.
 
The winemakers have used old vines planted on the driest, sunniest sites, and a whole slew of techniques like green harvesting to limit yields, so that the vines can concentrate their resources on ripening fewer grapes. And they’ve succeeded, though the moderate 12.5% alcohol shows just how hard it is to properly ripen Carignan, even in the heat of the Midi.


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