The Rise And Fall, And Rise Again Of The Grape You May Never Have Heard Of

01 Jan 1970

We have always had an affinity with Carignan here at Weavers, whether it was the rough and ready versions from the South of France, to the fruitier versions from Chile and Argentina, and now it seems the rest of the world is catching on too! Carignan is a wine of humble beginnings. Even though you may have not heard of it before, until the 1990’s it was actually France’s most widely planted grape covering 167,000 hectares, but was mainly used for blending rather than single varietal wines. So when the EU started an aggressive vine pull scheme to reduce the wine lake phenomenon, Carignan was the natural choice for wine makers to start pulling up and the plantings in France fell to 95,700 ha. Then in the mid noughties the early buds of a renaissance began to bloom. As wineries in the South of France were passed down to children and grandchildren who had studied Oenology and experienced winemaking techniques outside of their region and tradition, the gnarly, old vines that were left after the vine pull were looked at with inquisitive eyes.

Although Carignan was always an easy grape to grow if you wanted to produce bulk wine, due to its vigorous and high yielding nature, to produce something of quality takes patience, skill and a lightness of touch. Due to its late ripening, picking too early can lead to high acidity and rough tannin, because it grows close to the vine trunk with short thick stalks, it is almost impossible to machine-harvest, and it is a tightly bunched grape which makes it susceptible to all kinds of organic hazards such as rot, powdery mildew and grape worms. The new wave of winemaker saw this, but also saw the potential in these vines, some of which are 100 years old, and decided to experiment.

Care and attention in the vineyard allowed the yield to come down and gave the grapes room to reach their potential and hand harvesting meant only the best grapes were picked. In the winery carbonic maceration was utilized, and the use of French oak was experimented with. Soon a region and grape variety that was associated with cheap bulk or blending wine was producing fantastic medium to full bodied wine with refined tannins and a finesse not thought possible. Separately, winemakers in Catalonia were also experimenting with the fruit of their ancient vines and started producing higher quality Carignan based Priorat that was soon catching the attention of critics and buyers around the world. As its reputation grew, winemakers from the New World started to see the grape in a different light, and it is now possible to find exceptional Carignan from South and North America, and South Africa.

Typically high in fruit flavours, with raspberry and dried cranberry prevalent, it can also display spice notes of cinnamon, star anise and liquorice with an herbaceous finish. The addition of oak can bring out sandalwood and baking spices which add to the complexity. A great food wine, it is easy to see why Carignan is a Weavers favourite, and you can find a link to our favourite examples below and see what this grape has to offer.


Wish List

Alto Los Romeros, Reserva Gewürztraminer, Central Valley, 2022

Floral and spicy

MIX6 £9.90 £10.94
What is MIX6?

Add 6 or more bottles of selected wine to your basket to receive the wholesale price.

BUY 3 for £52.74*
Wish List

Alma Gemela Carignan, Mendoza

Ripe red fruit

MIX6 £18.95 £21.95
What is MIX6?

Add 6 or more bottles of selected wine to your basket to receive the wholesale price.