Chateau Carignan Prima 2005

Chateau-Carignan-PrimaRecognized in large part for the quality of its Merlot, Château Carignan is located just a few clicks outside of Bordeaux proper, within the Premières Côtes de Bordeaux appellation. It’s a “lesser” geography if you measure against boasts of the Bordelais and their adherence to the fabled 1855 Classification. Then again, not all wines from Medoc and Graves are classified as first growth and, unless you’re flush with kingly cash and disinclined to sweat your cases of Haut-Brion, it’s worth taking note of values offered by neighboring vineyards.

The Château Carignan Prima 2005, drawn entirely from 40 year-old Merlot vines, was recently made available across Pennsylvania as a Chairman’s Selection for $24.99. It would be a no-miss gift for any French wine appreciator as well as a low-risk departure for the Big California Red guy on your list (often that hard-charging colleague or boss who is, let’s admit it, typically a guy). It’s an excellent opportunity to sample a mature, very respectable representation of the much-hyped 2005 vintage from Bordeaux.

After an hour-plus decant, the gorgeous, deeply hued Prima opens with a surge of complex and rich flavors. The slightly astringent tannins, well worked over at this stage, yield to distinct red and dark fruit, licorice, chocolate, meatiness and a hint of menthol. There’s excellent length on the finish, extending in the mouth for minutes.

I’ve also sampled Prima’s sibling, the Château Carignan 2005 blend, which weighs in with 70% Merlot. It was enjoyably musky and earthy, but the fruit wasn’t as centered. In comparing what I paid (seven bucks less for the blend), the Merlot-rich Prima is the worthier effort by a stretch. It admittedly leans toward New World crafting, but most drinkers will appreciate its smooth, approachable style. As an added bennie – only an accessory to the wine’s merits – the handsome bottle will present well beneath gift wrapping. Lastly, the PLCB price of about $25 is reasonable to begin with, and all the more notable considering the wine’s lack of availability elsewhere. 90-92

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