Last year we interviewed three vineyard owners: Michel Gassier, Rob Dougan and Dominik Huber. At some point in all of these conversations the topic of Carignan came up. This was no coincidence since we are smitten with this variety. Long derided, scorned and the object of many government-sponsored plans to eradicate it from the vineyards of the Mediterranean, Carignan seems to have gotten a bad rap. It is true that young vine Carignan is usually not that great, and if farmed with an eye towards quantity rather than quality, it can make for a pretty shrill experience, but old vines that are carefully tended?
And we’re not alone in this assessment.
Anna Espelt says that her oldest vines of Carignan put her “in the mood for poetry.”
Dominik Huber remarks, “…but if you treat Carignan very well and you don’t have a very young vineyard – 30 years or older – you can make the most beautiful wines out of Carignan.”
Speaking of his Les Obriers de la Pèira, Rob Dougan commented, “That for me is a weekday wine; it’s a blue jean wine. It’s two local varieties, Carignan and Cinsault – derided for many years – but now it’s quite respected.”
After a trip to the Priorat Michel Gassier recounted, “We get to Priorat and we taste at a whole bunch of properties and the one varietal that I thought was the most amazing was Carignan.” Luckily for us, Michel’s visit opened his eyes to the potential for Carignan and saved his last vineyard of it – it was slated to be grafted over the following spring.
It would appear that our obsession with Carignan isn’t unique. Writing for JancisRobinson.com (subscription required) Ferran Centelles tastes through an assortment of pure Carignan wines from France and Spain. The title of the article is, Heart-breakingly pure Cariñena.
We couldn’t agree more.
Top honors in this article went to Mas Doix 1902 and Cal Batllet 5 Partides. Two very different styles of Carinyena made from vineyards just a few miles apart. Writing about the 1902 Ferran says, “a wine I found almost heart-breaking: Mas Doix 1902 Centenary Carignan goes directly into my top five wines since I started writing for this site.” Anna Espelt was also singled out for her Coma Bruna and Old Vine Carignan bottlings.
If this isn’t enough to “slate” your Carignan thirst might we suggest the following additional wines: