Recanati – Reserve Wild Carignan 2015

It was 2014 and I was dining in Tel Aviv, bearing witness to a night that wore on with seemingly countless bottles emerging. Despite all that had come before, it took just one, a Carignan by well-regarded Israeli producer, Recanati to make one of my fellow dinner companions go ballistic in my general direction. “Oh look, Carignan. Fucking Carignan! For the last week I’ve just heard you talking about fucking Carignan. Now you have it so I hope you’re happy!” None of this was said with the least bit of irony as after having spent the previous week with three other people touring the wine regions of Israeli, apparently I’d asked about Carignan one too many times for him to keep his annoyance to himself. Equally, I would have loved it if he’d have shut up about his “genius” kids for five minutes as well so I suppose we all left hating each other a bit more than we’d started.

As anyone has probably noted, my admiration for the Carignan grape is not subtle as I find it delicious to nearly a point of addiction yet it’s the recipient of much misplaced scorn. Israel has some ancient vineyards of the grape still hanging around as they, much like those in Spain and France, were planted back in the late 19th and early 20th centuries purely to get massive production. What they ultimately got were a great many pretty crappy wines due to how much the grape can overproduce. What vineyards were left have managed to age with a great deal of grace to the point where there are low-producing vines giving nuanced grapes with the potential of making fine wines.

I don’t know how many of these very ancient vineyards might still be around but Recanati snapped up one of the older fellows to craft a varietal wine from it, although these vines are a “mere” 50 years not. Regardless, the end result is a damned fine wine and this ’15 is much better than what I remember the ’11 being when I last tasted it during the venting session in Tel Aviv. It also goes a long way to confirm that Carignan, as well as Grenache are grapes that Israeli winemakers should be making more use of. Sure the Cab Sauv and others have been fine but I constantly feel like they’re hitting a wall in terms of what they can do and they’re never going to get over said wall by relying on what are grapes much more suited to moderate climates.

Reserve Wild Carignan 2015
Dark ruby. Dark plum and cherry, licorice, anise, bit of mossy earthiness, cured lemon peel, nutmeg, baking spice. Medium acidity, wealth of tannic structure on the palate but doesn’t drag. Holds the alcohol in check well, albeit with a little prick in the finish, and has a very long finish. Not cheap but definitely exciting.
100% Carignan 14% 30€
** 91