Carignan grapes

The most widely-planted red wine grape in France is Carignan (sometimes spelled Carignane in the US, a.k.a. Carignano in Italy, and Mazeulo throughout most of Spain). The variety likely originated in the ancient region of Aragon, near CariƱena, Spain, in the province of Zaragoza, where a reputation for winegrowing began to develop with the Romans around the year 50 BC. Today, Grenache dominates most D.O. CariƱena vineyards and less than 10% of the appellation remains planted to Carignane.

Carignan mostly produces wines that have high color, acidity, and tannin, without displaying much distinct flavor or personality and with very little unique appeal. Although Carignan can potentially generate generously floral and balanced wine, only a few growers carefully manage vine vigor and limit crop size in order to produce these appealing, interesting, distinctive wines. As with many other varietals, older carignan vines seem to produce wines with generally more character and less brutality.

Thus, Carignan most frequently becomes a wine for blending or, on its own, for inexpensive everyday consumption. The whole cluster fermentation technique of carbonic maceration can somewhat improve its tendency toward harshness. Oak treatments, on the other hand, seem merely to exacerbate the variety’s underlying toughness, while adding little to either its complexity or interest.

Carignane is currently produced in over 30 California wineries, including Ferrara in Escondido, Old Creek Ranch in Ventura, Seghesio Family in Healdsburg, and Woodenhead in Santa Rosa.

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