Appears in
Oxford Companion to Wine

By Jancis Robinson

Published 2006

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Carignan, known as Carignane, in the US, Carignano, in Italy (Bovale Grande, in Sardinia), and Mazuelo and Cariñena, in Spain, late-ripening black grape variety which was once so widely planted in languedoc-roussillon that it was France’s most planted vine for much of the last century. Thanks to eu bribes it had fallen to fifth most planted red wine grape in France by 2011 when plantings totalled 41,718 ha/103,043 acres.

Nowadays Carignan seems a very odd choice indeed, although presumably it seemed obvious to many pieds noirs returning in the mid 20th century from algeria, where the wine industry depended at one time on its 140,000 ha/350,000 acres of Carignan. In much of southern France its wine is high in everything—acidity, tannins, colour, bitterness—but finesse and charm. This gives it the double inconvenience of being unsuitable for early consumption yet unworthy of maturation. The astringency of basic red from the Languedoc has owed much to Carignan’s ubiquity, although blending with Cinsaut or Grenache helped considerably, and carbonic maceration helped disguise, if not exactly compensate for, Carignan’s lack of youthful charm. The vine is not even particularly easy to grow. It is extremely sensitive to powdery mildew, quite sensitive to downy mildew, prone to rot, and prey to infestation by grape worms. Its diffusion was presumably beneficial to the agrochemical industry. Its bunches keep such a tenacious hold on the vine that it does not adapt well to mechanical harvesting and is mainly grown in bush vines.