Santa Carolina Dry Farmed Carignan 2008

Some of the most exciting flavours I've ever found in a glass have been thanks to Carignan, a Spanish variety which was also, for a time, the most widely planted grape in France.

It was, of course, popular because of the large yields it offered, but it's a truism in wine that quantity and quality are generally in inverse proportion, and tonight's wine, I'm fairly sure, comes from low yielding vines.

Santa Carolina don't give much away on their website, but the vines are said to be 80 years old, and - most unusually for Chile, they are not irrigated, two factors which would lead to smaller crops.

And the wine looks, smells & tastes very concentrated. Initially appearing black, a close examination of the rim shows it to be deepest ruby, and it has legs like a dessert wine.

The aromas are lush and super-concentrated, with black plums and smooth woody spices. There's also a thread of vegetal green, and I found a wee touch of black pepper.

The palate is complex. The attack is sweet, the middle is dry, and the finish is sweet again. Lots of black fruits - more bramble than plum I should say - and creamy flavours. A second mouthful reveals bitter chocolate and dried cherry notes. Peppery notes return in the finish.

While I was tasting this wine I also had a glass of Parducci Mendocino County Zinfandel 2007 (although I wasn't really comparing them - that wouldn't be very fair, since the Zin was half the price of the Carignan).

I tried both as a match for a Raclette salad*. While the Zinfandel was fine, the Carignan was fantastic: the cheese was lifted and less sticky, and the wine seemed to get more red.

Santa Carolina Dry Farmed Carignan 2008, altogether altogether an excellent wine, if a couple of years young for my taste, 3+ -4.

*I know, I know, Pinot Gris.