Thursday, 19 March 2009


Hiding amongst the dusty bottles in my attic was this bottle of 1957 Carthagène.

Carthagène (or Cartagène) is a languedoc speciality, a vin de liqueur or mistelle which is made by mixing grape spirit with grape juice and so the wine does not ferment. The alcohol comes purely from the grape spirit and because the juice never ferments it retains all the sugar from the grapes. Pineau de Charente is made in the same way and is the Cognac region's version of a vin de liqueur.

Carthagène was normally made by winemakers for their own use. A couple of old barrels or whatever container that was lying around would be filled with grape juice (whatever grapes they had - grenache, carignan, aramon etc) and spirit and then forgotten for a few months or even years. And then gradually consumed by the family. It is still made this way today with the difference that producers may bottle it for sale, either at the cellar door or via local restaurants. Very little is exported.

The best Carthagène I have tried recently is made by my neighbours, the Frances family of Domaine Camberaud. Made of 100% Grenache, it is a deep red with enticing aromas of cherries and kirsch. It has gorgeous sweet plum/cherry flavours and is slightly chocolatey and spicy. There is a slight spiritiness but this is well balanced by the generous fruit. I showed this to a group of Australians on board the Athos barge on the canal du mid and they loved it.

Locals drink Carthagène as an aperitif but it would also go well with blue cheese and rich chocolate puddings.


  1. Hi Juliet. We're looking for a new cartagene and the one you describe sounds lovely. I don't suppose they sell it to restaurants?

  2. We were offered a bottle of Cartagène from our neighbours last year - it had been fermenting over 25 years and tasted absolutely wonderful. It went perfectly with the Cidre Sorbet too!
    Have just found your blog - will be back for more! Kylee

  3. Cartagène is often just stuck in a corner of the cellar and left to its own devices. As you have discovered, it can be wonderful! Where are you based Kylee?

  4. You should come to Normandy and try the Pommeau or perhaps we can swap a bottle or two.