These two singular and rare dry white wines, one from France and one from Italy, could hardly be more different in style – a textbook compare-and-contrast study.
Domaine Jones On The QT Bin 23 Carignan Gris 2019 is very pale, delicately perfumed, lively and medium-light with a fine, faintly chalky texture, fresh pear and apple, hints of apricot and ginger root, and herb (including fennel) and mineral flavours. It's a Vin de France from a vineyard in Languedoc close to the Roussillon border.
Borgo Prunatelli Canaiolo Bianco di Toscana 2016 is deep straw-yellow with a relatively low-key nose of almond and jasmine but a notably full, creamy textured, nutty palate with mineral and herb notes and a touch of honeyed almond. It's from the Grati family's vineyards on the western side of the Rufina Valley north of Florence.
What the pair have in common, apart from deliciousness, is rarity. In the case of Domaine Jones Carignan Gris, only 695 bottles were made in 2019 (mine was bottle 688). The most that has been produced in any year from the 60–70-year-old vines on a third of a hectare is 800 bottles. Even so, it's almost certainly the largest production of this pink-skinned mutation of Carignan Noir (aka Mazuelo) in the world and may well be the only example of it as a single varietal wine. Officially, there are 1.4ha of Carignan Gris in the world, all planted around Perpignan. It wasn't even recognised and registered as a separate variety until 2017.
If the wine is so delicious, why isn't there more Carignan Gris? There's a ready answer: "It's a pain in the neck to grow," says Katie Jones, which is why she was simply given this vineyard by a member of the local co-operative. "It takes forever to ripen. We pick [by hand] most of our whites from the end of August to early September and our reds from September to mid-October. The Carignan Gris still isn't usually ready, so then it comes into the winery when we're making the reds." Even so, she and husband Jean Marc Astruc would like more of it, but they'll have to wait another two years for vines that the local Chamber of Agriculture is now propagating.
Canaiolo Bianco is not so rare as a variety. In addition to Tuscany, it's grown in Lazio and under the name Drupeggio for Orvieto in Umbria. What makes Borgo Prunatelli's wine so unusual is that it's pure Canaiolo Bianco. It may even be the only single varietal Canaiolo Bianco and only 2000 bottles were produced. Incidentally, the 2016 was harvested, destemmed and crushed by The Wine Society's buyer Freddy Bulmer. Now that's hands-on buying for you.
Domaine Jones On the QT Bin 25 Carignan Gris 2019 is an ideal aperitif. You don't want to overpower it with food, but it goes well with sautéed courgette flowers (it's the season now), oven-roast tomatoes and bitter salad leaves and with lightly smoked haddock. It would go well with other salads and light fish dishes.
Borgo Prunatelli Canaiolo Bianco di Toscana 2016 goes very well with risotto with gremolata and Tuscan olive oil and with smoked haddock. It would be good with many fish and seafood dishes.
Domaine Jones On the QT Bin 25 Carignan Gris 2019, Vin de France, £17.99, Waitrose Cellar
Borgo Prunatelli Canaiolo Bianco di Toscana 2016, Italy, £27, The Wine Society
Photographs by Joanna Simon