Odfjell, Old Vines Carignan 2011, Chile
It's fair to say that the Carmenere variety has become Chile's signature grape. Whilst there are some excellent Carmeneres around, I've been impressed by another variety: almost every example I've tasted of Chilean wine made from the Carignan grape has been terrific. Carignan is a minor player in the south of France, where it usually has a bit-part role as a blending component alongside more famous grapes like Syrah and Mourvèdre. But here in Chile, winemakers have discovered some wonderful and ancient vineyards of Carignan, dry-farmed (so un-irrigated, which is an exception in the heat of Chile) and clinging to the tops of hillsides. The old vines have had to send their roots deep into the earth to find water, also helping them tap into the interesting minerals and sub-soils which in turn gives complexity to the wine.
Odfjell is something of an old vine Carignan specialist. The estate is owned by a Norwegian shipping magnate (hence the tough to pronounce name - watch the video to hear it spoken), and whilst fairly expensive at £15, this wine is both a little bit unusual and delicious. The age of the vines gives a natural intensity and concentration. The aromas are beautiful - it's not a blockbuster or show-stopper, but has a delicate, crushed raspberry and redcurrant aroma, touched by spices, cedar and briar wood. On the palate the ageing in oak barrels does add a little creaminess to this, but it is that elegant fruit with its lightness of touch that wins through. The tannins are fine and give some structure, the juicy cherry acidity adds some freshness, and all in all it is a natural, unforced wine that doesn't need to try too hard: that natural old vine character has been deftly handled in a terrific wine for drinking now, or cellaring for a decade. £14.95 from Virgin Wines.