Brian Elliott makes his picks for the best wines from the "crazy Norwegians"

WHEN you are a Norwegian shipping specialist residing in Chile and already beyond your comfort zone, you may as well be unorthodox. So concluded the Odfjell family when choosing the carignan grape for their winemaking venture.

Originally a Spanish grape, carignan is now widely grown in southern France, despite its many negatives. It is disease prone, tannic, late ripening, hard to harvest and often only tolerated because of its heavy yields. Nevertheless, handled carefully it provides delicate, ripe, figgy wine with bramble fruit and touches of liquorice and pepper, often with a savoury edge. Those characteristics are what those “crazy Norwegians” (as the Chileans called them) were seeking and now – several years later – consistently deliver.

Sampling Odfjell carignans since the initial 2001 vintage was a walk through history. The effect of their experimentation with different levels of acidity and oak was plain to see; so too were their (ultimately successful) tussles with cork taint. Equally apparent was the entire operation’s painstaking journey towards being organic and, later, bio-dynamic.

The vintage most widely available here is 2012 Odfjell Orzada Carignan (£15.95 at The Fine Wine Company in Portobello and Musselburgh) with its fresh, mocha-influenced bramble and raspberry fruit, but with the lid firmly kept on that tannin.

Switching grape varieties brings the family’s dark and ripe 2013 Odfjell Armador Carmenere (£9.95 at The Fine Wine Company again) with bright, warm, soft, plum and elderberry fruit, mild tannins, firm acidity and a minty spiciness to add complexity to the characteristic chocolate-centred finish.

Both are classy tributes to tenacious strangers in a foreign land.

BEST BUYS

2013 Pablo Y Walter Malbec
Mendoza, Argentina,
14.5 per cent
To celebrate “end of the month pay day”, I have slightly relaxed this week’s price criteria. So, use the opportunity to enjoy this dark, dense and concentrated malbec with touches of cloves and a mineral-centred depth that adds richness to the wine’s robust but smooth bramble and mulberry fruit.
£10.25 at Vino Wines

2014 Jean-Luc Colombo La Redonne Cotes du Rhone Blanc
France, 13 per cent
Colombo produces some excellent and complex whites. Here, for example, you can find fruity aromas, clean and pithy apple-centred acidity, a smooth and creamy texture, fennel-influenced savoury touches along with attractive suggestions of ripeness.
£9.74 instead of £12.99 until 13 October at Waitrose

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Brian Elliott

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