Poor old Carignan. This grape used to be a dominant planting in both Spain and the Languedoc-Rousillon region of France. But over recent decades it has been turned over to more favoured grapes like Garnacha or Syrah. The good news is that the vines that have been left over, tend to be very old, producing low yields and therefore rich intense fruit flavours. It is worth searching out “Old Vine Carignan” for that reason.
At its best it is a robust red, with christmas cake rich fruits, and licquorice sweet spice. It offers a mouth-filling and intense experience.
You’ve probably tried Carignan at some point because it is used as a blending grapes in many wines. Particularly Languedoc Rousillon reds like Corbieres, Fitou or Minervois. In Spain it is most famous in Priorat wines; the old vine Carignan here produces wines with exceptional intensity – the perfect fire side red after a cold winters walk. It is also known as “Mazuelo” in Rioja and can be used as a small proportion in those wines.
Carignan is also appearing as a single varietal wines in many new world regions, where the grape has been planted for its suitability to warm climates. Again these are typically old vines and there are some really interesting ones coming from South Africa, Chile and even far flung regions like Israel and Lebanon.
A late ripening grape, with naturally high acidity, which means it is well suited to warm climates because it doesn’t ripen too quickly in the heat. Very productive, a reason why it has in the past been used in regions looking for yield rather than quality. A strong tannic grape which needs gentle extraction to prevent it gaining rustic tannin. In France they often used carbonic maceration on Carignan to produce early drinking, soft fruity styles.
Zinfandel, Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot,
Spain: Aragon, Catalunya
Africa: Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria
Steak pie, lamb chops or kebabs, tagines, pumpkin or squash