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Carignan: A caravan of love for Hither & Yon

Richard and Malcolm Leask with Carignan vines just prior to harvesting this year.

By Malcolm and Richard Leask, Hither & Yon, McLaren Vale, South Australia

In 2014 it was revealed that, in South Australia at least, any Carignan planted or propagated from vines planted before 1966 were, in fact, likely to be Bonvendro. The same year Hither & Yon sourced some genuine Carignan vines and planted half a hectare in McLaren Vale. Brothers Richard and Malcolm describe their journey with the variety and their first release of a 100% Carignan wine they’ve dubbed ‘caravan’.

Diversity, climate suitability and wine style versatility are the key drivers behind all variety selections for Hither & Yon wines. Carignan, as it is known in Australia, is originally from Spain where it is known as Mazuelo. It was chosen by us for its ability to handle hot conditions, high natural acid and multiple wine style possibilities. Our purpose and thinking was it would be a great blending variety for Grenache.

We planted 0.53 hectares of Carignan in our Sand Road vineyard located in McLaren Vale, South Australia. This vineyard is also home to some of our other alternative varieties such as Nero d’Avola, Tempranillo, Aglianico, Greco di Tufo, Montepulciano and Touriga Nacional. Like most dryland wine regions water is our most limiting factor and we were looking for varieties that handle heat well and are productive with the limited amount of water we have at 
our disposal.

Viticulture

Vine material was sourced through Yalumba Nursery and is the Angove’s clone grafted onto the drought tolerant rootstock Richter 110. Even though it is planted in a high vigour potential site of deep clay loam, we have found that this combination has led to balanced shoot growth even tending to slightly under-vigorous in some years.

The block was planted in November 2014 as potted vines at a spacing of 2.75m x 1.8m with one 4L/Hr dripper per vine. The water used is aquifer bore water and as the vines start to mature we are finding that they requires 15-20% less water than the Cabernet block on the same soil type. The block is trained to a single cordon height of 800mm and is spur pruned to a density of 15-18 two bud spurs.
As the vines age, spur position is important to allow plenty of room for the large bunch size of this variety. Early in the growing season we do a shoot thinning pass to remove all non-count and unfruitful shoots to help open up the canopy and to push growth into the shoots we want. A single pair of foliage wires are used to keep the shoots vertical and, depending on the season, we either lift once or twice subject to vine vigour.

Post flowering and fruit set we make another visual determination of bunch size, number and spacing and, if needed, we do bunch removal at this point as it’s more cost effective than later in the season and results in less damage to the remaining bunches. Even though the rows are planted east-west we have seen very minimal sun damage with the fruit fully exposed to the morning and afternoon sun from very early in 
the season.
We have found Carignan to be a very robust variety with it being no more or less susceptible to any of the common mildew diseases. Our spray program of five to six per year, depending on conditions, is based around sulfur, kelp and humates with copper only used if downy threshold numbers are reached. Pre bunch closure we use Trichoderma brews for botrytis control.

 

 

Hither & Yon made its first 100% Carignan table wine from the 2019 vintage. The winery has dubbed it ‘caravan’ for its laid-back nature and relaxed feel.

 

Without shoot and bunch management Carignan has the potential to be very high yielding with variable ripening and reduced quality. We have managed the yield back to 7-8t/ha. We have found it to be a late ripening variety with harvest coming after Shiraz and Cabernet and more in line with Mataro in late March to mid-April.
The first two vintages for the Carignan (2017 and 2018) were exclusively for rosé. It was made in a traditional style and blended with other varieties such as Red Frontignac, Grenache, Touriga and Nero d’Avola. We find Carignan has a really nice fresh pink lady apple like crunch and fresh acidity, giving the rosé a real lift on the finish.

The 2019 vintage was our first 100% Carignan made for table wine. Carignan can be high in tannins and acid and makes fine wine from old vines. As is our way, however, with young vines we prefer to make a fruity, fun, and bright style wine which is very light for easy drinking, even chilled.

We handpicked early for this variety in 2019 on 21 March as the fruit was very tasty in the vineyard. Even at low Baume (13.2), it had nice red fruit sweetness, with moderate acidity and we liked the freshness of it. Upon receival at the winery, the fruit was gently destemmed and we kept 80% whole berries in the ferment. Fruit was cold soaked for two days, then went through a traditional fermentation in 2 x two-tonne open fermenters for 10 days, hand plunged twice a day. We then gently pressed it to tank with free run juice and pressings combined and transferred it to two-year-old French oak puncheons for 10 months. It was then screen filtered and bottled on 27 September 2019, and we were able to fill 500 six-packs with it.

This wine is bright cherry red in colour, medium bodied and attractive; super fruity with some real personality. The berries (raspberry, blueberry, mulberry) are up front juicy; liquorice and dried herbs (laurel and thyme) in the mid palate add a lovely savory nip. There is some sweetness of wine gum lollies, balanced out with crunchy acidity and malt/toffee biscuits flavours in the back palate. It has quite a soft, refreshing and lingering finish with beautiful young tannins.

The wine has a nod to some of the good varietal characters of Carignan, but made in quite a modern, early release, easy drinking style; it is fruit forward and has all natural acidity and tannins. We like making wines from young vines. The 2019 Carignan reminds us of similar initial releases of Nero d’Avola (2013) and Touriga (2017).

It is a really lovely spring/summer red; it is nice lightly chilled before serving. It has been quite popular in our cellar door in the first six months of release and we find that it is a great alternative to a rosé if people are looking for a light style red. It would be wonderful paired with a big bowl of Pipi’s in Romesco sauce and garden peas, or with a cherry and chocolate ganache cake on a crumbled 
biscuit base.
Carignan has surprised us. Initially we thought it would be a blending variety but believe it has really found a home in our vineyard environment. It is healthy and strong and makes a high quality wine of character.

People are loving it — we call it ‘caravan’ for its laid-back nature and relaxed vibe. We are also seeking out and trying Carignan from other parts of the world too, trying to define our own style, and find it is really food friendly. Enjoy Carignan!

 

Carignan

By Peter Dry, Emeritus Fellow, 
The Australian Wine Research Institute

Background

Carignan (kah-ree-NYAHN) is a very old variety, probably originating in Aragon, north-east Spain, where it is known as Mazuela (the preferred international synonym of this variety). Because it has been widely dispersed in southern Europe, it has many synonyms including Bovale di Spagna, Bovale Grande (Sardinia), Bovale Mannu, Carignane (France), Cariñano, Cariñena and Mazuela (Spain).
Global area in 2010 was 80,178ha (32% less than 2000). More than two-thirds is grown in France, mainly in Languedoc-Roussillon, but the area has more than halved since 2000. It is often blended with Syrah, Grenache 
and Mourvedre.
In Spain (with just 6% of global area), it is mainly grown in Aragon and authorised in the Rioja blend. In Italy it is mainly found in Sardinia. In Algeria and Tunisia (both 9% of global) it is very important. There are small areas in Croatia, Cyprus, Turkey, USA (California) and Chile.
The planted area and number of wine producers who use Carignan in Australia is unknown. There are at least 22 wine producers who claim to use Carignan (of which 12 are in the Barossa Valley with the remainder in McLaren Vale, Victoria and Western Australia). In South Australia, any ‘Carignan’ planted before 1966 (or propagated from vines planted before 1966) is likely to be Paraletta (syn. Bonvedro) or even Mourvedre (refer to Dry and Dry (2014) for more information on this topic).

Viticulture

Budburst is late and maturity is very late. Vigour is high with erect growth habit. Bunches are large and compact with medium berries. Yield is high. Spur pruning is generally used in Australia and elsewhere. It is very susceptible to oidium but more tolerant of downy mildew and bunch rot. It is difficult to mechanically harvest due to tight attachment of bunches.

Wine

There are differing opinions regarding the quality of Carignan wines, which generally have moderate colour, high acidity, tough tannins and tend to lack pronounced varietal characters. Carbonic maceration is used in France to soften tannins.
Reference
Dry, P. and Dry, N. (2014) Carignan – the unmasking of an imposter. Wine Vitic. J. 
29 (4):49-52.