As far as anyone can test and or educatedly guess his or her way to semi-certainty, the strapping, ultra-long-lived grape vine called Carinyena, or Carignano, or Caringane or even Mazuelo or Samso`, has its origins in the erstwhile Kingdom, and now just region of Aragon, Spain. There are some very interesting theories of a birthplace of the vine on the island of Sardegna (there they use the “Carignano” moniker listed above), but common wisdom still holds to the idea of a sub-Pyreneean origin. But lord only knows how many centuries ago, this hardy, high-yielding grape spread to Rioja, Catalunya, Languedoc, Provence, and a fair piece up the Rhone as well..
One little peculiarity about the vine in Sardegna is that it is the only region in which the grape is vinified and bottled unblended. The Sardinian soil and climate, especially in the southwestern Sulcis region, traditionally bottles solo a grape that is typically mixed with one or multiple other varieties in nearly every other place in which it makes a home. In France, Carignane has always been seen figuratively as an amiable peasant-of-grape, but it nonetheless ably lends its voice to wines as great as Rioja to ones as workmanlike as Cotes du Rhone. But despite Carignane being France’s most heavily planted wine grape variety, little of it is bottled alone because of this reputation for rusticity, that to be fair, is, or at least was, often well founded.
No, little to no Carignane is bottled solo anywhere in France, at least not in vessels smaller than a demijohn…until now…And that is in a little village called Douzens, near the medieval walled city of Carcassone in France’s Languedoc, by a producer called Domaine Faillenc Sainte Marie. This region of France is among the most hidebound-traditional wine regions in Western Europe, but Domaine Faillenc Sainte Marie, while still a very stylistically traditional producer, clearly believes in, and clearly can deliver a higher level of pure Carignane than most other wineries in France want to even bother to produce, despite the simplest, and for me somewhat humorously named French wine classification Vin Sans Indication Geographique.
I paired this wine with a first course of zucchini and cheese fritters flavored with oregano and orange, and then a beef chunks stewed with mushrooms, anchovies, onions, garlic, parsley, etc. with red wine braised leeks on the side.
Domaine Faillenc Sainte Marie Noe’ Carignane Vin Sans Indication Geographique 2011
Inky, completely opaque black/purple color. Evocative but clean nose of smokey mixed berry, prune, and fig fruit, with distinct notes of dried red flowers, mocha frosting, molasses, motor oil, and green underbrush. The wine in the mouth is huge, powerful, velvety, and rich with a medium and equilibrated acid/tannin balance, and gregarious flavors of black cherry, blackcurrant, and wild blueberry fruit, closely followed by roasted chestnut, walnut butter, cracked black pepper, and eucalyptus flavors. Very dry, warm, and quite long unsweetened cocoa finish. Carries its 15% alcohol with remarkable ease.