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Nathalie & Co Syrah Carignan 2006

Nathalie & Co Syrah Carignan 2006

Something different again this week, as I journey south from Bordeaux, the source of last week’s very drinkable Sauvignon Blanc, down to Montpellier. Here we can find winemaker Nathalie Estribeau, who originally hailed from Bordeaux, where both of her grandfathers were vignerons. Having completed her studies at the University of Bordeaux Institut d’Oenologie in 1992 she has established herself as something of a flying winemaker. Although she settled in Montpellier, no doubt she enjoys a somewhat warmer clime than she did during her childhood years in Bordeaux, she has also been involved in projects in Northern Italy and Orange. Not the Orange just to the north of Châteauneuf du Pape and Avignon, though – the Orange in question here is the one in New South Wales, in Australia, where Nathalie worked, on secondment from her European employers, on a range of wines.

Nathalie & Co Syrah Carignan 2006The wine in question here is produced much closer to home and is a Syrah-dominated blend, this variety accounting for 80%, with the remaining 20% being Carignan. Harvested from the bush vines that are typical of the region, the two varieties were handled and vinified quite separately, and only blended towards the end of the process. The Syrah was subject to a cool maceration for up to ten days for extraction of colour, structure and of course flavour. The Carignan, however, was vinified using carbonic maceration, a whole-berry fermentation technique perhaps most readily associated with the juicy wines of Beaujolais but which is commonly employed for the work-horse Carignan as well, I think to try and soften some of the coarser edges of this variety. The berries are placed in the fermentation vat taking care not to damage the fruit, and are then held in an anaerobic environment, typically ensured using a blanket of carbon dioxide gas, hence ‘carbonic maceration’. The resulting fermentation that occurs within the intact berries is said to reduce sugar, alcohol and acidity content whilst bolstering the concentration of glycerol, not to mention the effects on flavour, all of which have an obvious influence on the character of the final wine. It is not at all uncommon to see Carignan handled in this way and then blended with other more traditionally fermented varieties, just as is the case here. After these varieties were fermented they were pressed and blended, and bottled under a synthetic cork after a little fining and stabilisation.

And so to the wine in question, the 2006 Syrah Carignan from Nathalie & Co, bottled under the designation of Vin de Pays d’Oc. Once the synthetic cork is extracted and the wine is out in the glass we can see what a great depth of colour it possesses, and although it is a little dumb on the nose at first this soon opens up to reveal an interesting set of aromas. It is sweet and ripe, yes, but also fresh on the nose; there is the obvious and necessary fruit, with a mulberry and blackberry character, but there is also a little mushroom, undergrowth and sweet pepper complexity. Having read around a little I have seen this wine described in the press as an easy-glugger, but I think there is a little more depth to it than that description suggests. On the palate there is a lot of fleshy and flattering texture, with substance and extract and also some grip. There is plenty of appeal here, from a wine packed with creamy ripe tannins, bright and vibrant fruit, and decent acidity. It is a wine for drinking now and in the short-term, and even if I wanted to cellar it longer that that the synthetic cork would make me very cautious about doing so. But it would certainly perform well for a year or two, but no longer I think, and indeed when it gives such great pleasure now I wonder what the point of the exercise would be. 17+/20 (6/10/08)

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