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Grapes: Cinsault

Grapes: Cinsault

An underestimated Mediterranean grape variety!
For quite some time, very little merit has been accorded to Cinsault, a grape variety originating from the Rhône and Languedoc regions. Or perhaps it’s more accurate to say it has been granted only a single virtue: its ability to produce a high volume of fruit—perfect for creating inexpensive cuvées or easy-to-drink rosés for guzzling.

While it was omnipresent in vineyards in the South of France during the first half of the 20th century, it was enthusiastically uprooted in the ’80s and replaced with Grenache, Mourvèdre or Syrah when wine producers decided they wanted to produce more “serious” wines.

However, in years that are particularly hot, Cinsault had the virtue of being able to maintain the freshness of cuvées: While Grenaches can reach 16% alcohol at such times, Cinsault remains at around 13% and keeps its acidity. Furthermore, older vines are able to produce wines with character and complexity that have pleasant red berry and sweet spice flavours.

Now that lighter wines with moderate alcohol levels are in fashion, Cinsault has regained the favour of many vintners, who are happy to use it to produce thirst-quenching vins de soif in the South of France as well as in Chile, California and South Africa. In South Africa particularly, significant quantities of old vines have allowed some makers to produce high-quality, sophisticated cuvées with a long finish.

For the past several years, crisp and refreshing wines have become more and more popular, and Cinsault is a definite part of this trend, as is Poulsard from France’s Jura region, Austrian Zweigelt, Gamay, and others. These are multipurpose wines that pair well with a variety of dishes or can be consumed on their own as an aperitif.

Cinsault in a nutshell:

  • Cinsault is a fine-skinned grape with fruity juice and good acidity, making it well suited to the production of rosé
  • Like Grenache, Cinsault prefers the hot climate and arid soil of the South of France
  • Up until the early 1990s when it was surpassed by Cabernet sauvignon, Cinsault had been the most planted red grape variety in South Africa
  • Cinsault is the most planted variety in Morocco and the third most planted in Lebanon

Harvesting at various moments in the grape’s maturity reinforces the complexity of this wine, and the use of carbonic maceration puts its fruitiness front-and-centre. Could this be Cinsault’s new Eldorado?

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