From the unusual grape files: Carignane

Carignane is one of the most widely planted wine grapes in the world. It’s best known as a blending grape used in inexpensive table wines such as jug wines from California’s Central Valley. It’s also a staple in French and Spanish table wines. In fact, at one point in the 1980s there were more Carignane vines in France than any other varietal. 

Despite its global popularity, you don’t often find Carignane as a stand-alone varietal. It can be a tricky grape for winemakers because it tends to be very tannic and doesn’t have a lot of fruit flavor. It’s kind of funny that a grape so popular is also so rare.

We have a few bottles in our collection but they’re often overlooked because we don’t really know what to pair them with. Even our favorite wine pairing resource, What to Drink with What You Eat, makes no mention of Carignane. That leaves us with just one tried and true pairing strategy – open the bottle, taste it, and then select the meal.

Terra American Bistro is a perfect place to implement this strategy. Their seasonal menus offer a little bit of everything and all of it is very, very good. We recently decided to pay them a visit with a bottle of 2009 Seghesio Carignane in hand.

The wine’s inky purple color really stood out when our server opened our bottle. Sally’s first reaction to the aroma was “It’s so big, it smells big! Put me in a cigar room.” The taste was fig and dried fruit and the trademark Carignane tannin quickly made an appearance. This is a wine that needs meat!

Sally paired it with a pappardelle short rib dish while I paired it with Terra’s bistro burger. Both were garnished with gorgonzola cheese which was a perfect flavor companion.

Posted on August 13, 2013 and filed under Wine Discoveries.