Carignane is believed to have originated in the region of Aragon (in Spain) before dispersing throughout Spain, Italy, France, and eventually through much of the Americas. Though its reputation is as a high yielding and prolific grape, it is a late ripener whose berries cannot reach maturity without adequate heat.
Carignane's deepest fault and greatest asset is its prolific production (at a rate of up to ten tons per acre if grown unchecked). It was once one of the most widely planted grapes in California, but was used primarily in inexpensive jug or "table" wines produced largely in California's Central Valley. Carignane was at one point the 3rd most widely-planted grape in California, and world-wide, acreage could be tallied in the hundreds of thousands.
Because of its reputation as a "workhorse" grape, it has garnered little respect as a component in quality wine making. It was overused to the degree that the European Union paid farmers to remove Carignane vines in France. However, when quantities are controlled and the harvest is in the hands of an experienced winemaker, Carignane may yield complex, velvety, and aromatic wines.
The caveat to this at that good results in varietal Carignane are rarely achieved from young vines. In Northern California, old-vine Carignane plantings ranging in age from 50 to 120 years are slowly reshaping the grape's reputation.
Makers such as Lioco Wines of Sonoma and Mendocino Counties and Broc Cellars of Berkeley, among others, have created wines highlighting the grapes best assets: a wonderful natural acidity, deep color, robust tannins, bright aromas and flavors of plum and red berries. Varietal Carignane's have also been noted as retaining terroir unique to their vineyard and clime.
At its best, Carignane is bright and bold, with deep ruby color, flavors of dark, ripe fruit and plummy, spicy aromas.
PRODUCERS: UNITED STATES
Caballo Bianco Vineyard
Hawkeye Ranch, Redwood Valley