News From Terre Haute, Indiana

May 13, 2012

GRAPE SENSE: Finding a 100 percent Carignan will be worth the effort

Howard Hewitt
Special to the Tribune-Star

TERRE HAUTE — It’s a long path from Louisville, Ky., to Saint-Jean-de-Minervois in Southern France. But that’s the journey Brown University graduate John Bojanowski took in transformation from literature major to Languedoc winery owner.

Bojanowski was recently in Indianapolis to promote his Clos du Gravillas wines and visit family in Kentucky. His journey is an interesting one as is the unique Languedoc wine he champions.

Bojanowski attended prestigious Brown University in Providence, R.I., and wanted to travel.

He landed a job in the computer industry that took him to 50 countries in five years. During that time he met Nicole who wanted to be a winemaker. They went in search of just the right property to open their winery.

“When my wife started she wanted white limestone gravel, which is what our soil is because you get freshness and minerality out of that to balance what the sun does to the grapes,” he explained. “But Carignan was what we started with because that’s what she was able to buy.”

Their property included Carignan planted in 1911.

Carignan is an often-maligned grape. It is a dark-colored and strong flavored wine. Some will even call the nose offensive and the taste can be strong. But the old vine Carignans can produce deeply flavored and rich wines. Small amounts of Carignan is consistently found in most Languedoc blends.

“We discovered that Carignan could be more than just okay. It can be really, really good. We’ve made it our purpose to tell everybody about it.”

Clos du Gravillas is a small production winery featuring wines made from 15 different grapes. “So it’s sort of like being an artist with 15 different colors on the palette. We try to figure out what each of those grapes are best for and how we can make it the best wine.”

The Languedoc is the largest wine-producing region of France.

“The Languedoc is on the Mediterranean. It’s between the Rhone River and Spain. Our winery is three hours from Barcelona and six hours from Paris. It’s sunny, beautiful and rain free almost all summer. You find very different terrain when you go a half hour drive in any direction from sea to flatlands to plateaus to mountains. It’s a beautiful place and wine grapes have been grown there for 2,000 years.”

The warm weather, the region averages 315 days of sunshine a year, produces ripe fruit. “We pick the grapes ripe which means a certain amount of sugar, a certain amount of alcohol, so they’re not little wines. We practice very natural and organic farming and then natural non-interventionist winemaking, and fermentations. We try not to do too much besides getting really great grapes, putting them into the tank and letting them become wine.”

Clos du Gravillas wines are available in some Indiana restaurants and fine wine shops. John’s wines are above the value price points usually featured in Grape Sense. His wines are in $30-$50 range. Languedoc wines are widely available in the $12-$16 range. Finding a 100 percent Carignan isn’t impossible but could be difficult; it will be worth the effort.

Howard’s Picks:

Le Rendez Vous du Soleil 2007 — This is a nice extracted blend of Cabernet, Syrah, Mourvedre, Grenache, Counoise, Tanet, Terret Gris and Carignan. This is big rich red wine that is beautifully balanced with big dark fruit. (SRP $42)

Lo Vielh Carignan 2007 — This is the real star in John’s stable and the supply alloted Indiana has already sold out. This is the 100 percent Carignan from vines planted more than 100 years ago.

It’s a big incredible wine that has a smoothness unlike many Carignan wines. It’s outstanding fine wine. ($53)



Howard W. Hewitt, Crawfordsville, writes every other week about wine for 18 newspapers. Contact him at: hewitthoward@gmail.com.