Carignan is one of the more widely planted red wine grapes, used mostly as a blending agent, throughout the Mediterranean. Carignan exhibits high acidity and obdurate, often ropey tannins. When melded with Grenache and its fulsome sweetness; Cinsault, a fragrant softening agent; and other grapes of varying textures and flavours, Carignan can help to render a complete wine.
Carignan is made as a straight varietal expression at the drinker's peril however, risking abrasions to the roof of the mouth, as well as the gums. In certain instances, when vines are old and rootstocks established, its curmudgeonly nature can be tamed despite being susceptible to rot, mildew and virtually every disease known to man. It buds late, however, obviating the risks of early spring frosts; and ripens late, limiting its cultivation to warm to hot regions. Carignan's bunches are sturdier than most, with their tenacious grip on the vine making machine-harvesting difficult.
Going by the synonyms Cariñena or Mazuelo in Spain, Carignano in Italy and once, Carignane in the USA, the grape is particularly ubiquitous as untrained bush vines throughout the Languedoc and Roussillon, in France. Here, it helped fill the void of blending grapes left by Algeria's independence in the 1960's. Despite its many inconveniences, Carignan's attraction to the pieds-noirs was shared by the mainland French, with both parties drawn to the grape by its vivid coloring and high yields. In those times, when French per capita consumption was still well in excess of 100 liters, Carignan happily yielded above 200hl/ha to help fill the cups of the proletariat.