Ever since I had my first sip of Carignane (from Sonoma County's Qualia wines), I've been a woman obsessed, seeking out the light and juicy red at every opportunity. Once considered barely drinkable dreck, Carignane — also known as Carignan (France), Carignano (Italy), or Cariñena (Spain) — has recently begun to overcome its unsavory reputation, as is evidenced by its increasing prominence, and I couldn't be happier. Here's why you should care:
- Originally the most planted grape in France (grown primarily in the southern Languedoc region), the grape suffered from overabundance, poor stewardship, and a quantity over quality mentality. Until recently, it was most commonly utilized in harsh, prohibitively astringent, generic vin rouge blends and garnered little respect in the wine world.
- Over the past few decades, yields have dramatically decreased with about a 50 percent reduction in vine acreage, largely in part due to EU subsidies that encouraged vintners to pull up large crops of the grape, leaving behind primarily older-growth grapes. With this shift came an uptick in quality, as older vines tend to produce a more concentrated, less harsh flavor, as Carignane, like many high-yield grapes, tends to suffer from dilution of flavor.