Winegrape variety Carignan
Carignan, the winegrape variety everyone has had but doesn’t know it.
Up until the 1990s, Carignan (pronounced ‘care-in-yawn’), was the third most widely planted winegrape variety in California. To this day this grape is still used as a blending agent, in large, mass-produced red wines in California and is primarily grown in the South of France, in Spain and in Italy, but it can be found in many wine growing regions throughout the world. In its youth, Carignan can be extremely vigorous and is high yielding. However, as the vines age and fruit loads diminish it can certainly produce wines of high quality. A lot of old-vine vineyards are still planted in Northern California to Carignan, for this reason. We’ve even heard older growers claim that as Zinfandel gained in popularity, plenty of wines made up of 100% Carignan were labeled as ‘Zin’, because it was fashionable and easier to sell. Typically, wines made from Carignan will be medium bodied, can contain high amounts of tannin, and are high in acid. These factors lead Carignan well suited to ‘carbonic’ fermentation methods, in order to craft approachable young wines.
At Sans Wine Co., we work with old-vine, dry-farmed, certified organic vineyards. In seeking out these small family farms, we’ve had the great opportunity to work with several vineyards planted to this amazing variety. We find rosés of Carignan to have great depth and complexity, and utilizing carbonic macerations, red wines of this grape to be fun, interesting, and approachable.
Due to consolidation of wine businesses, and the ever-increasing barriers of entry into the wine industry, access to high quality wine grapes for small producers is diminishing. There is a new generation of young winemakers that is seeking out unique varieties and grower relationships to source fruit for their winemaking endeavors. As a result, this variety among others (Grenache, Cinsault, Trousseau, and others) is rising in popularity and we believe it to be the next great wine variety in the United States.
In 2021, Whole Foods Market, put a bottle of our single variety domestic Carignan on their shelves nationally, a first for this grape in their stores. We intend to produce as much wine from this lovely wine grape as we can get our hands on. Distributors, retailers, and consumers can expect to see a lot more of Carignan in restaurants and on store shelves. Everyone has tried it before they just didn’t know it, but now they will. It’s a perfect pairing for your fall meals!