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Carignan (also known as Mazuelo in Spain) is a red grape variety predominantly found in the warm Mediterranean regions of southern France (especially Languedoc) and Spanish regions such as Catalonia and Aragon. In addition, Carignan vineyards can be found in Italy, Croatia, Cyprus, Malta and Turkey. In the New World, the greatest volume of Carignan production is now in California and Washington State.
As recently as 1988, Carignan was one of the most widely planted grape varieties in all of France. The key to its success was its ability to generate large yields. That made the grape a favourite blending component as well as the source of ordinary table wines. However, a push to prioritize premium wine production within France led to Carignan soon being displaced by grape varieties such as Merlot.
The origin of Carignan started in Spain’s Aragon region. From there, the grape spread to Sardinia, Italy, France and Algeria. Carignan thrives only in warm climates due to the fact that it is late budding and late ripening. In addition, Carignan is very sensitive to rot and mildew. Therefore, much of France’s Carignan production is now centred around Languedoc, where the Mediterranean climate is most hospitable. Despite Carignan originally being a Spanish grape, France now out-produces Spain by a margin of nearly 9:1.
Within the United States, Carignan is primarily used in bulk wine production. For example, California’s Central Coast vineyards grow Carignan for use in mass-market jug wines. In Spain, Carignan remains a component of many Rioja red wine blends.