What to say about Carignan, except that I love this grape? You wonder why?
SHORT ANSWER : Go to a Carignan tasting and you will know!
INTERMEDIATE ANSWER : It has character, nerve, fruit and spices. Its tannins are fresh and have much relief. The vines may live for more than a hundred years. It’s a restart level fighter: (some) people did not want to keep it any longer, and therefore many of them ripped it out.… but its still there! It comes in three colors, black, gray and white, like many great varieties, giving pleasant wines, wines for our table and fine meals, and wines to be kept for ages.
DETAILED ANSWER : For the first time I met this wine in my glass during the late 90s and I started working with it in the Languedoc, specifically in the Minervois, in 2002. For those who do not remember: During harvest in September 2002 itwas raining, and a lot. There was much damage done to the vineyards, and I remember a plot of old Carignan that had been flooded. The plot was (and still is) in a spot called « Les Aspres“which usually refers to the stony and dry soil. Here the vines are rooted only in about 50 cm of topsoil, before encountering a rock slab. The latter indeed that caused the inundation because ther w. Nobody believed in the 2002 vintage and it is true that many grapes were affected by rot and some of the wines seemed a bit”diluted". But I still have the wine from this century old Carignan in my cellar. It’s now almost 13 years old, still tasting great !
Lets have a look at the same vineyard in 2003, a heatwave year. Again it was him who came out best, along with its old regional colleagues (Terret, Alicante, Cinsault, Picpoul ...). That’s interesting, right? Yet there still are people today, even experts, making a difference between these traditional grape varieties and « improving» grape varieties. Those mostly come from other wine regions, without being necessarily suited to the sometimes extreme climate conditions of Mediterranean vineyards.
This brings us to some very simple basics of viticulture and wine making: each variety needs is a suitable soil and a suitable climate, thoughtful cropping, proper care, as well as vinification and aging that outlines its qualities. Then EVERY grape variety will give us some good wine…