Wine Talk

Snooth User: spikedc


Posted by spikedc, Aug 25, 2012.

Must admit I'm becoming a convert to this wine, I know it seems to get a lot of negative press having a reputation as a lowly ' Workhorse ' grape. but I enjoy the richness, tannins that grip you and the dense meaty flavours. 

I've recently had some very good ones, notably .........

Paul Mas Estate Carignan Vieilles Vignes Savignac Vineyard 2010 Pays l’Herault IGP, France

Odfjell Orzada Carignan, 2008, Maule, Chile
I came across the Spanish version 'Mazuelo' on my recent visit to Spain and again thought most of what I drank to be pretty good.
Like to know what you guys think ?



Reply by GregT, Aug 25, 2012.

Hey Spike - Cariñena is of course originally from Spain, like many of the southern Rhone grapes. And like many of the grapes from the southern regions, it was planted because it produced well in those areas more than because it was known for making great wine.

It has decent acidity when ripe, also decent tannins and color, it ripens late and doesn't suffer from mildew in hot and dry regions.  Consequently, when Spain was dominant in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, they took it all over the Mediterranean and it was adopted by the locals.  Other countries too - at one time it was a fairly widely planted grape in the US, going into lots of blends, and it's also in Chile and to a lesser degree, Argentina. 

But none of those regions were known for "fine" wine, so much as jug wines or peasant wines. When the wine industry took off in the 1970s, people focused on Bordeaux blends and names.

Eventually people figured out that the world doesn't need another rich, ripe, Cabernet.

But until very very recently, like now, people were grubbing up all kinds of Carignan in France and ignoring in Spain.  Priorat started a kind of renaissance for that grape, thanks largely to Perez, although the first big time wines produced there in the 1990s weren't based on it - they planted Cab.  Eventually Perez convinced himself and others that it could do a decent job and it's now a big part of his wines as well as the wines of others in the region.  That seems to have spurred growers elsewhere because I've had some really ambitious, and in fact, delicious, Carignan from France.

But the best I've had from the Languedoc would be like $100 and who is going to pay that?

I'm not a huge fan of the Priorat versions, although many people are. Vall Llach is OK, but kind of pricey for what you get.  From nearby Monstant, Portal de Montstant has a few wines that are heavy on the Cariñena, very nice IMO. I do know of a couple producers in Rioja who've produced 100% versions, where it's called Mazuelo, but I think that's mostly for curiosity as you're not likely to find them. 

They also call it Samsó, which is completely idiotic. That's because of politics - remember Spain is still in many ways a collection of kingdoms rather than a single country, and in my region I don't want to use your language so I came up with that name.  Which is quite brilliant really because in your language that's the name of Cinsault. So now we don't know which grape we're talking about.  Duh.

In the US, Ridge did a nice one. Still do, but it's not great in every vintage. There's an Italian one called Buio, that's actually very good - once again the Italians show what they can do. 

It seems to be best as a blend - from places like Roussillon, for example, there are nice blends - Cirque Rouge for example, is cheap and actually a nice buy for what you get and it's 1/2 Carignan.

There's some thought that the key is really old vines but the person in the world who's done really extensive research on old vines and Cariñena isn't convinced that it's the age of a vine that really matters.  So there you are.


Reply by spikedc, Aug 25, 2012.

Thanks Greg, great info as usual.

There seems to be quite a lot around in our shops at the moment and a few tastings I've been to lately have always featured Carignan either 100% or where it's blended but the predominant grape. 

I must admit I'm rather partial to it.

Reply by GregT, Aug 25, 2012.

Me too when it's good. It can have a kind of floral quality that's quite nice. I'm glad some people are deciding not to rip out the vines but to try making wines with more care. Let us know what you find that you like.


Reply by Mike Madaio, Aug 25, 2012.

There's a small region in southern Sardinia called Sulcis that grows a lot of Carignano (as it is called in Italy). In particular, I've had the 05 Carignano del Sulcis from Sella & Mosca and must say it is killer!

Pennsylvania brought this in through the Chairman's Selection program for $7.99 - an amazing price for a wine that drinks like it is at least $25. I bought a bunch last year and they keep getting better.

Anyway, keep an eye out for the Sardinians if you are into the grape.

Reply by EMark, Aug 25, 2012.

Spike, thank you for starting this conversation.  Like you, I just recently learned that the Spanish Mazuelo is the same as Carignan.  The last time I had a California Carignan, other than cases where it is used as a blending grape was, probably, over 20 years ago.  It seemed to be fairly popular with the small family wineries in the Morgan Hill and Gilroy areas.  (Is that Santa Clara County, Fox?)  My recollection of those wines were that they did not show a lot of fruit--rather, they showed substantial earthiness.  I enjoyed them mostly because they never seemed to conflict with my meals.  I cannot recall seeing any samples on store shelves in many years.  More than likely, I haven't looked hard enough.

Greg, I was not aware that Ridge had irregular offerings of Carignan.  I will look for it in the future.

Mike, thank you also, for the tip.  I will look for those, also.

It sounds like I want to compare and contrast Carignans from multiple regions.

Reply by zufrieden, Aug 25, 2012.

This grape is indeed much maligned - like many of the hybrids developed to escape the vine louse infestation in the late nineteenth century.  Many of the latter are actually quite capable of producing excellent wines if effort in the vineyard and fermenting vat is commensurate with expected results.  And anyway, who cannot love the old gnarled vines of Carignan with their large, black globular berries? The attack on this grape is merely the result of fashion; many inferior grapes today hold sway because of the forces that happen to trump reason (I won't bore you with any anecdotes from contemporary politics since that just distracts).

People of a counter-historical bent might forget that fashion is fickle and usually reflects not only fashion but cache. For example, people are rediscovering the hedonic rapture of certain southern Rhone varieties such as Roussanne and various eclectic blends of Viognier, Grenache Blanc and (even) Bourboulenc. These southern blends - to say nothing of whites from Galicia in Spain or Santorini in the Aegean - very often eclipse the overly-vaunted charms of Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Good on you for bringing up your love of Carignan and be of good conscience!




Reply by GregT, Aug 26, 2012.

Emark - they don't make a lot and used to only sell it thru the winery, but now it's available sporadically around the country.

Not as good as some of their wines but worth looking at just for the experience.

They also do Grenache (I'm of the same opinion), Syrah (ditto) and used to do Mataro, which in some cases was surprisingly delicious.  And of course Petite Sirah, which they do well, in addition to their Zins and Cabs and Merlot.

Best Carignan I had from CA was in the 1990s from Fife.  Really went downhill after a few years, but for the first five was a great wine.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Aug 28, 2012.

 " It seemed to be fairly popular with the small family wineries in the Morgan Hill and Gilroy areas.  (Is that Santa Clara County, Fox?) "

Why, Emark, that is Santa Clara County.  Thanks for asking.  ;-) 

BTW, just had a long conversation with one of the winemakers at Furthermore, a pinot maker, who had no idea that Inglenook was once one of the world's great wines... so I didn't want to mention that Almaden was once a real winery. 

Anyway, Carignan:  Porter Creek, a tiny winery in the Russian River valley, makes a good Carignan. The grapes come from Mendocino County, which is usually not a hot climate, but since there's no mention of the specific vineyard, who knows?  It's quite good and GDP mentioned liking it in this post. (At yields of one ton per acre, that's not a winning proposition for the grower for an unpopular grape, but maybe it takes yields that low to make the wine distinctive.  Are the yields that low because the vines are so old?  Who knows?

Talty and Ridge almost always use carignan in their Zins--there's a fair bit planted in the dry creek valley's oldest vineyards, probably a historic accident..  Interestingly, a lot of it was planted by Italians.  Teldeschi Vineyards, best known for the Zin they sell to others, make a blend that contains Carignane from their fields.  But few California wineries seem interested in bottling it as a varietal wine.  I've thought that, if you want a real challenge in California, figure out how to make great wine in the hottest and least chi-chi areas and, to me, that would mean carefully cropping carignane and grenache to make S. Rhone style wines, or something to rival the best Priorat (not the most expensive or "international," but the best examples of that terroir).  Seems like those vines would also do well on the eastern side of the Cascades in WA state. But instead they plant cab and syrah.

Reply by Wai Xin Chan, Aug 29, 2012.

Adding to Mike's comment on the Sardinia region, keep a look out for Sardus Pater "Arruga" Carignano del Sulcis. Ranked as wine of the year by Gambero Rosso (Italian wine press), this is an intensive beauty.

Reply by Richard Foxall, Aug 30, 2012.

And if you want to purchase some Carignan with fancy credentials at a decent price, here's one I just got and email about.

Here's an excerpt of the gushing text (oh, marketers!):

So what of this Effet Papillon 2011, Gallet's gorgeous red fruit beauty, infused with luscious, crunchy, almost sorbet-like crème-de-cassis juiciness, a bottle that speaks volumes to these windswept hillsides outside of Montner and the 200km/hour winds that cleanse these old vine Carignane clusters, nursing them to phenomenal small berry maturity? As every drop of the Roc des Anges 2010s flew out of the cellar, Stephane and Marjorie doubled down on 2011, for the first time putting out a bottle that has turned the bistros of Paris and New York on their ears.

Deep purple in color with gorgeous, high-toned cassis aromatics, beautifully cut, with signature Roc des Anges class and voluptuousness. Rich and darkly saturated with lavish currant/blackberry juiciness, all bracketed by marvelous windswept vibrancy, chiseled with ripe tannin framework. Absolutely delicious right out of the gate.

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