The Carignan variety of grape is late budding and ripening which requires a warm climate in order to achieve full ripeness. It is susceptible to rot, powdery mildew and worms, but has the ability to produce very high yields. It has an upright growth habit and can be grown without a trellis. The Recanati web site states that, “The vines are “head trained” (Gobelet), giving them an ancient, wild appearance.” Because of its thick stalk attaching the clusters of grapes to the vine, it is not one which can be mechanically harvested. It has a checkered history and was once the major variety grown to produce wines in Algeria. In the late 1980′s it was the most widely planted grape in France. It is known as Carignane in California and was the third most widely planted grape variety, but recently has since dropped considerably in production. In the European Union, it was the main variety responsible for the excessive production of lower quality wines until they offered growers cash to pull up their vines. In Spain, the grape is almost non-existent in its ancestral home of Aragon. It is said to have played an important role in the early development of the Israeli wine industry and there are still some old vines which have been left to grow with minimal pruning and no irrigation.
It is a tough grape variety that makes tough wines. In Israel it is nearly a wild variety, and sometimes used for mixing with other varieties to lend a deep color to the blended wine. The wine this Carignan variety produces is typically high in rough tannins and acidity. Jancise Robinson states that she finds “a rank bitterness in many Languedoc red blends too dependent on high-yielding Carignan.” In another article, she states that “perhaps it is meant to be a cussed brute, like the rocks that litter the Lnaguedoc landscate.” I might add that the Israeli soil also is, in most locations, extremely rocky.
Based on our tasting, we agree with the name that the Recanati Winery has chosen for this wine, “Wild Carignan.” It is INTENSE and not a velvety smooth wine. I thought that it had the smell of prunes, and Nurit contributed that it smelled of heavy smoke, “like a dead fire that had water sprayed on it.” Its taste was of blackberries, raspberries and cherries. On a less positive note for a wine, in the mouth it had the flavor of salty, funky seaweed. It was a bit thin and a never-ending, biting finish. We could see why someone could love to hate this wine. Indeed, it is not a wine for timid souls.
I must say that it was recently given a score of 90 by Mark Squires in Robert Parker’s Wine Advocate. This high grading, also given to two other Recanati wines, seems to me, to have caused them to create a separate new series they call Mediterranean Series, which is neither mentioned on their web site nor in their printed catalog. And it also seems to me that these high ratings have invited them to also push up the price of these three wines. Our subject here, the Wild Carignan, sells at the winery for 133 shekels/bottle, the equivalent of about $35 at the current rate of exchange. We are of the opinion that this is a mediocre and overpriced wine. We realize that we are going against the grain of the international wine critics by giving it a “D” rating.