Côtes Catalanes, France, $12.99
Carignan has had a rather tumultuous history in the south of France. Once seen as a necessary grape to spur the recovery of the region after the plague of phylloxera in the late 19th century, primarily for its ability to produce high yields, it has been largely replaced with “nobler” varieties such as Grenache, Syrah and Mourvedre. This is unfortunate – for as challenging as the variety is to love when the vines are young – they are superb with half a century under their belt. Jean-Marc Lafage luckily resisted the call to uproot and replace this variety, and he possesses Carignan vines well over 70 years old on the schist soils of Aspres and Maury from which he started making the Tessellae Carignan at the urging of Eric Solomon. Winery notes.