The Carignan or Mazuelo variety is an indomitable grape whose attributes are at their best when it is cultivated in poor soils and worked with the utmost care. Its long growth cycle means it needs many hours of sunlight for the grapes to ripen perfectly and ensure both the fruit and the resulting wines are ideally balanced. Yields are controlled because if the vines produce too much fruit, the grapes’ character is weakened and they don’t fully ripen. At times in the past this has led to criticism of some Carignan wines — undeserved criticism, as in those cases the fault did not lie with the grapes but with the winegrower who tried to over-produce or perhaps planted the vines in unsuitable locations.
Originally from the Spanish region of Aragon, Carignan has spread to Catalonia, Rioja, and the south of France, playing a different role in the wines of each area and helping to produce contrasting wines. Darker, deeper, and more mineral Carignan wines are found in Priorat where it usually works with its habitual companion, the Grenache grape, to create some of the best red wines in the world. It is often combined with Grenache, Syrah, or Mourvèdre grapes in France to produce splendidly balanced coupages which are more intense than Rioja wines. It adds colour and freshness to Tempranillo and/or Grenache wines made in Rioja.
Aromas of Carignan wines remind us of purple plums and scrubland. Their colour can range from cherry-red to very dark purple depending on the yield and age of the vines. They are excellent wines in the mouth, with abundant tannins and acidity thanks to the carbonic maceration and ageing process they undergo. A grape which, when grown and processed with plentiful attention and patience, produces a unique, intense, complex and seductive wine.