Bored of Grenache, Sangiovese, and all the other usual suspects? Try Carignan, a medium-bodied red with elevated acidity and an approachable price point. Traditionally used primarily as a blending grape in Southern France and Northern Spain, Carignan is starting to enjoy some single-variatal fame.
Keep reading for more on the up-and-coming Carignan, including where it’s grown, what it tastes like, and what foods to pair with it.
It’s believed that Carignan (“care-in-yen”) originated in Northern Spain, though these days it’s best known for its French plantings. With prolific yields and a friendly acceptance of carbonic maceration to tame occasional rough tannins, Carignan came to the rescue in Southern France as other varietals, like Syrah, Mourvedre, and Grenache, simply couldn’t keep up. Blending the abundant yeilds of Carignan with these other grapes created popular and accessible bottlings. Only at the end of the 20th century did Merlot surpass Carignan in total French acreage.
Though it can be a prolific producer, Carignan needs a warm climate to thrive. It is particularly vulnerable to mildew and rot, preferring a dry heat to humidity.
Don’t be fooled by its deeply colored hue – Carignan skews more towards dry and lifted fruit than jammy richness. With red-berry flavors (think dried cranberry, raspberry, and cherry), notes of baking spices, and a fresh, electric vibe, Carignan is slowly gaining popularity as an easy-drinker alongside a variety of foods.
Largely grown throughout Laguedoc-Roussillon, Carignan also does well in other well-known world wine regions, though sometimes under another name. In Rioja, Carignan is known as Mazuelo. In Catalonia and Aragon of Spain, you’ll find it called Cariñena and Carinyena.
Carignan can be found in Sardinia as well, going by Carignano del Sulcis.
Americans occasionally like to tack an ‘e’ to the end of Carignane that’s grown in Lodi, Madera, and Sonoma, with some representation in Oregon and Washington.
Other countries, like Chile (Maule, specifically), Israel, and Mexico are finding success with this drought-resistant vine.
With its crunchy red fruit qualities, snack-friendly acid, and subtle winks to umami and savory herbal flavors, Carignan is a sociable bottle for many dinner tables. Thanks to its medium-bodied style, Carignan can play nicely with both light and bold dishes.
Here are some delicious ways to pair Carignan with food:
With such versatility, Carignan is a fun and unexpected wine to serve at your next get-together!
What’s better than great wine and artisanal pizza?
The New York Times described Ridge Monte Bello as “America’s greatest Cabernet Sauvignon.”
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