Fife Redhead Carignane 1999
A standout region for its decidedly Californian take on Burgundian varieties, the Russian River Valley is named for the eponymous river that flows through it. While there are warm pockets of the AVA, it is mostly a cool-climate growing region thanks to breezes and fog from the nearby Pacific Ocean.
Chardonnay and Pinot Noir reign supreme in Russian River, with the best examples demonstrating a unique combination of richness and restraint. The cool weather makes Russian River an ideal AVA for sparkling wine production, utilizing the aforementioned varieties. Zinfandel also performs exceptionally well here. Within the Russian River Valley lie the smaller appellations of Chalk Hill and Green Valley. The former, farther from the ocean, is relatively warm, with a focus on red and white Bordeaux varieties. The latter is the coolest, foggiest parcel of the Russian River Valley and is responsible for outstanding Pinot Noir and Chardonnay.
Responsible for some of the most stunning old vine red wine on the planet, Carignan has an amazing capacity to survive dry, arid climates and still produce lovely, mouthwatering wine. In Spain it goes by the name of Mazuelo and while it may have originated there in the province of Aragón (with Grenache), its popularity lies elsewhere. It spread across countries that border the Mediterranean Sea, becoming ubiquitous throughout the south of France. Today it flourishes as a blending grape in the Languedoc-Roussillon and also growns in Sardinia, mainland Italy, Turkey, Cyprus, Croatia and Northern Africa. Likewise, producers in the New World—namely California and Chile—bottle excellent single-varietal Carignan wines.
In the Glass
This is a medium-bodied wine with dried cranberry and raspberry fruit. It can take on an attractive savory quality with alluring notes of baking spice, black tea, black licorice or earth.
Try Carignan with seared ahi, roasted turkey or duck, lamb gyros or chops, aged Gouda or Manchego and cured meats.
Historically Carignan did not enjoy the respect that it does today. In the mid 20th century, Carignan covered nearly 140,000 ha in Algeria, where it was made into low quality bulk and blending wine to supply mass-market demand.