The Secrets of Cinsault
Cinsault is a grape originally from the south of France that was traditionally a key component of red blends in the Rhone Valley and Languedoc-Roussillon. Plantings in France have declined over time, but it remains a key ingredient for many Provence and Provence-style rose wines, as well creating some beautiful varietal wines in the New World and helping provide those famed aromatic and fruity notes for French-style red blends in the warmer climes of North Africa. We explore this aromatic grape.
Cinsault is an early ripening dark-skinned grape that brings good yields in the warmest environment. It is this drought-resistance and heat tolerance that made it very exportable to North Africa (Morocco, Lebanon), South Africa and more recently Chile.
Red wines can bring strawberry, raspberry, redcurrant and red cherry, with notes of dried fruit, floral violet and elements of black pepper, tea and mulled spice. Blends work well with hearty meals such as stews and casseroles, braised or roasted red meats, chilli con carne and full flavoured pizzas. If you feel adventurous, the wine was often paired with escargot! Varietal wines with their light to medium body, low tannins and good acid can also compliment white meats and creamy cheeses.
Looking firstly at New World varietals, the grape was welcomed to Chile's southern central region and has gained particular prominence in the Itata Valley. The varietals from this area have been praised internationally for breathing new life into the grape, creating modern fresh, fruity and easy-drinking wines that are exceedingly quaffable.
Ventisquero's Queulat Gran Reserva (pictured at the top) hails from Itata Valley and uses vineyard grapes from plots that date back to colonial times. The wine encapsulates the fresh, fruity and silky smooth profile expected with aromas and flavours of redcurrant, tart cherry and raspberry bramble alongside soft baking spices and peppery notes.
In South Africa, Cinsault was crossed with Pinot Noir in the 1920's to create South Africa's flagship Pinotage grape. Often known as Hermitage in the country, it is embraced with some notable varietals.
Leeuwenkuil present a premium Cinsault from the Swartland region. Special care is taken throughout production with grapes that are partially early harvested and whole bunch fermented to keep freshness and verve to the wine character. Redcurrant is at the fore, with ripe raspberry and deep cherry following. The fine tannins and vibrant acidity produce a clean, refreshing finish.
TRADITIONAL RED BLENDS
Its historic use in red blends including the famed Chateauneuf du Pape was to add more aroma, red fruit and mulled spice, whereas its use in Provence-style rose wines brought not only the aromatic bouquet, but good acid, low tannins and light to medium body for freshness and lightness.
Domaine Berthet-Rayne are one of the Chateauneuf du Pape producers to stay loyal to Cinsault in their wonderful 4-grape blend. Rich with surges of powerful velvety fruit, balanced oak, lovely pepper, spice notes, subtle coffee and tannins that will soften and fade as the wine ages. A truly complex and elegant wine.
Chateau Musar's Jeune uses low yield grapes from the luscious Bekaa Valley blends Cinsault with Syrah and Cabernet Sauvignon for a classic Lebanese wine. Unoaked and bottled in youth, the wine allows fine ageing in the bottle for up to 10 years. Aromas of blueberry, plum and redcurrant fall on a medium bodied palate with lifted spice and freshness to the finish.
Chateau Ksara's Le Prieure also uses Bekaa Valley's excellent terroir for a 4-grape blend with Cinsault at the fore. One of Lebanon's oldest wineries, Ksara ensures each grape type is matured separately for up to 18 months before bottling. Exotic fruity red and black berry aromas with spice and liquorice notes precede a silky smooth texture of mellow, supple tannins and persistent length.
Rose wines retain the fresh red fruit and subtle spice present in red wines, but can also add ripe peach and pomegranate to the mix. Rose wines go well with tuna or herbed chicken salads, seafood, oily fish, paella and garlic dishes.
Chateau d'Esclan's Whispering Angel is a landmark rose that now epitomises Provence. It blends 5 grapes, with Cinsault the most prominent, to create a beautifully delicate and fresh wine of crisp strawberry fruit, lip-smacking refreshment and a beautifully long finish.
Mont Rocher provide a Provence-style rose from Languedoc-Roussillon using Cinsault as the main component in their blend. The palest of pinks in appearance, this shows lots of juicy strawberry and raspberry that balance nicely with fresh acidity and mineral notes for a true lip-smacking refreshment.