Vigno is the name for Chile Old Vine Carignan

 Vigno is  the name for Chile Old Vine Carignan
Chile is well known for its Bordeaux blends and varietals, and Sauvignon Blanc but they do grow other varieties. A small group of dedicated wine makers in the Maule region have come together to promote old vine Carignan under the name Vigno.

Carignan is a black grape found in France where it’s usually part of a blend, in Spain it’s called Mazuelo or Cariñena and often part of Rioja blends, and California which adds a final ‘e’ to its name. It has a lot of acidity, high tannins and easily over produces.

Grown as a bush and after 30 or more years the amount of grapes produced is naturally limited, and aging in old wood smoothes out astringency, says Brett Jackson, winemaker at Valdivieso Winery.

In Maule (pronounced mow lee) winemakers at a dozen wineries formed Vignadores de Carignan in 2010. They are pushing for an official appellation for Maule’s old bush vine Carignan and are labelling these wines as Vigno.

The Vigno name can be used on wines that meet the following rules:

-Minimum 65% Carignan (all varieties used must conform to following rules
-Vines minimum 30 years old.
-Bush vines
-Dry farmed, no irrigation
-Grown in Maule Valley
-Aged minimum 24 months in any of barrel, amphora, bottle.

The name Vigno (pronounced veenio) was chosen as it inserts the ‘gn’ of Carignan into vino, meaning wine.

Brett Jackson told me that after a massive earthquake in 1939 killed thousands of people and devastated the local economy the planting of Carignan to replace Pais (also known as Mission) was encouraged by the government. Today old Carignan vineyards often contain some Pais and other varieties.

“Traditional varieties were overlooked and forgotten in the 1980s export boom of Bordeaux varieties,” says Jackson. “Carignan was not then recognised as a noble variety and before 2002 wines were not allowed to be labelled as Carignan.”

Chilean wines are a safe choice from restaurant wine lists as they are well made and good value, but I rarely find them exciting.

That wasn’t the case at a recent tasting of Vignos from 14 different wineries ranging from large, such as Concha y Tora and Miguel Torres, the Lomas de Cauquenes co-operative to boutique including Garcia+ Schwadera, Odfjella and Meli.

Out of a most impressive tasting the two wines I liked most were
Garcia+Schwadera ‘Vigno’ 2013, D.O Maule. Grapes come from
the Melozal area in the Maule Valley. This is 100% Carignan from 55 year-old vines made by husband and wife team Felipe Garcia and Constanza Schwaderer. The wine had sweet spicy berry flavours.

Concha y Toro ‘Vigno’ 2013 D.O. Cauquenes-Maule Valley
This is also 100% Carignan aged in wooden tanks and 3-year old barrels. 10% of the wine underwent carbonic maceration which gives a lift and lightens the wine. Winemaker was Hector Urzua Pistas, This had a really inviting exciting aroma and offered flavours of prunes and spices, it is delightful.

There’s only 900 hectares (2,224 acrea) of Carignan in Chile and thus not much Vigno, but if you see Chilean Vigno do give it a try

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Peter F May is the author of Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape: Odd Wines from Around the World which features more than 100 wine labels and the stories behind them, and PINOTAGE: Behind the Legends of South Africa’s Own Wine which tells the story behind the Pinotage wine and grape.

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