Languedoc is France’s biggest wine region, with a bit over 200,000 hectares (almost 500,000 acres). A quarter of the French vineyard acreage. It has a variety of climates and a matching variety of wine styles. Vines grow both along the Mediterranean and in the mountainous inland. People are often amazed, considering the warm and dry climate, that also high quality sparkling, dry white wines and even great pinot noir wines are produced here. The mountains and the winds give cooler sites enabling the talented producers to make wines with startling freshness.
The local grapes, like Carignan and Grenache, are well adapted to the climate and if you are lucky to have old vines with long roots it is even better. Today Carignan, once the work horse of the bulk wine industry, is by many considered the most typical grape of the region. The top producers in Languedoc outdo themselves to prove the qualities of Carignan.
Carignan (Cariñena in Spain) is a black-skinned wine grape variety, most likely native to Aragon, northern Spain (specifically the town of Carinena). The variety is found in wines along the Mediterranean coast, particularly in northeastern Spain and in France’sLanguedoc-Roussillon region. It is used most commonly for blending with many of the region’s other key varieties – most famously Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre.
Carignan prefers warm, dry climates when the grape can express high tannins, acid and color. This makes it an excellent addition to red wine blends that have plenty of aroma and flavor, but lack body and depth of color. Carignan is only rarely made as a varietalwine, but the best examples can show characteristics of dark and black fruits, pepper, licorice, and spicy and savory accents.
Carignan is usually grown as bush vines, many of which are very old and require hand-harvesting as the vines’ stems are too tough for machines. It is a late-ripening variety that is known to produce high yields if not properly cropped. This was once considered an attractive attribute of the grape but, as this can make it difficult to achieve good flavor concentration, it also led to it falling out of favor.
In France Carignan was the most-planted grape variety from the 1960s-2000, but huge vine-pull schemes in the 1980s nearly halved the grape’s total acreage by the turn of the century. Around three-quarters of France’s Carignan is located in the Languedoc-Roussillon region, where it is largely produced asVin de Table.
Contributed by Wine-Searcher and Per and Britt Karlsson