Carignan is an interesting grape for a few reasons. The first, is that you rarely see it by itself. The French, the Spanish, and the Italians usually blend the variety with other grapes like Grenache. Carignan is capable of very high yields – making it a profitable variety. In fact, it was the most widely planted grape in France for decades. In California, Italian immigrants in the early 1900’s planted huge amounts of Carignan where it was often blended with Zinfandel. Like many high-yielding grapes, the wines made from these vines were mostly unremarkable. In France, they even uprooted most of the Carignan vineyards… but not all of them.
This brings us to the second reason why Carignan is interesting. Some of the vineyards in California and France still exist, and now that the vines are much older, the quality is extremely high. Once the vines hit a certain age, the yield is naturally reduced. Lower yields means more intensity and character. Such is the case with this month’s wine, the Foncalieu “Vieilles Vignes” Carignan. (If you don’t know, Vieilles Vignes translates into Old Vines). This wine is a great example of what Carignan can do when the vines are able to reach maturity.
Quick Tasting Notes: “Red fruit and garrigue aromas with hints of smoke. Dry, medium-bodied and structured yet elegant with red fresh fruit and spice notes. Enjoy with duck breast, lamb skewers with rosemary or eggplant.”