France’s Punchbag Variety Comes Out Swinging
Carignan has a terrible reputation. For many years this high-yielding, rot affected variety produced gallons upon gallons of poor-quality table reds in desert-like wine regions that really shouldn’t be growing grapes. So tough was the situation, that the EU instigated a vine pull scheme in the 1990s nearly halving its plantings.
Now more serious producers, who kept hold of their old vine plots, are starting to turn the table and show what this variety can do in the hands.
The better wines have concentrated ripe red fruit flavours of raspberries and cranberries. If yields are kept low enough then sweet spice flavours of liquorice and cinnamon add to an impressive nose.
Style tends to depend on how the winemaker has dealt with the high amount of tannins available. French winemakers often use carbonic maceration in order to extract the fruit flavour without the heady tannic structure.
Late ripening red grape variety that needs a warm climate. When fully ripe it is what’s known as a “big grape”. High in acid, alcohol, body, and tannin, it’s a careful skill to blend fully concentrated versions as they can often be overpowering.
Carignan can be ideally paired with spicy North African dishes, such as a lamb tagine.
FRANCE – Languedoc
70% of France’s Carignan is in Languedoc. High quality old vines can produce excellent quality varietal wines, but often Carignan is blended with the abundant Grenache.
Known as Cariñena in Catalunya, and Mazuelo in Rioja, it is often used as blending partner.
Also known as Carignano (Italy) and Carignane (USA), warm climate locations such as North Africa and Israel have plantings.