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Wine Wednesday: Carignane

a bunch of food on a grill

Wednesdays will be the day that we share our Wine Notes with you. We may select a varietal, a region, a wine or something interesting about Everything Rhône

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.

a close up of a fruit

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. 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.


In 1989, Fred purchased a 350-acre horse farm in Carneros and moved the winery to Sonoma County. As one of the original Rhone Rangers, he began planting varietals that included a number of vineyards dedicated to Syrah, Viognier, Marsanne, and Roussanne. 

Cline Cellars Ancient Vines Carignane, Contra Costa County

"Cline Cellars is one of a few wineries to vinify this varietal on its own. Dark ruby in color, Ancient Vines Carignane offers aromas of spice and plums."

FEATURED VINEYARD: Caballo Blanco Vineyards

One of the best-kept secrets in Mendocino County is the many vineyards of old-vine Carignan.  The Caballo Blanco Vineyard is a prime example of the terrific quality found in these unique forgotten vineyards. Aldis and Nancy Baltins show their commitment to quality by dry-farming organically to enhance the terroir and intensity of these 70 years old vines.  Naturally low yields of 1.5 tons per acre and well drained gravely soil combine to produce a wine of immense depth, balance, and character from this nearly forgotten varietal.   Source: Baxter Winery

Wineries using grapes from Caballo Blanco Vineyard to make Carignane/Carignan:
Baxter Winery
Buena Vista

Complexities of Counoise: A Rhône Region Standout
Old-vine Carignane becomes a source for fashionable wine.