Cinsault our unsung hero
This post is a homage to an unsung hero; Cinsaut. Or Cinsault, depending on where you are in the World and how you choose to spell it.
The definitive guide to all things grape related is the wonderful, though rather long, Wine Grapes by Jancis Robinson and friends. It’s a thumping tome and costs close on £100. Here is what it says about Cinsaut:
Also spelled as Cinsaut. Widely planted throughout southern France and Corsica (where it is now being ripped out at a great rate). With its lighter skins and soft perfume it is particularly suitable for rosés and fruity, early-drinking reds, although low yields are needed to eke out much flavour. It has the advantage over Grenache of being easy to pick by machine. Cinsault is used to add perfume and fruit to wines such as Minervois and Corbières. The variety withstands drought well and has been important in North Africa, Lebanon, Israel and South Africa where it is most famous as a parent of Pinotage.
Talk about damned by faint praise! What a chilly description for such a delightful grape; very unkind in my opinion.
The thing is that all of the things that Jancis says about the grape are true; it does produce light, perfumed, fruity wines that can be drunk young when they are bursting with life and energy. I see that as a benefit, though rather than something to be dismissed. For sure Cinsaut is not Cabernet Sauvignon, which is to be taken, oh so seriously, carefully aged and coddled in oak. No, Cinsaut is unashamedly youthful and fun and therefore perhaps something we are all more likely to actually enjoy drinking?
Let’s take the lovely Selon Letang Cinsault. The winemaker for this is Monsieur Letang, hence the name means Letang style. And what a cracking style it is. He describes it, on the label as “croquant” meaning crunchy, and that is the perfect description for the texture of the fruit. Deliciously light, fruity and lively. It isn't overly complex, heavy or layered, it is just incredibly juicy and delicious.
Another lovely interpretation is from Domaine des Tourelles in Lebanon. The climate here is considered warm to say the least, so this is very much the weightier end of what Cinsaut will do but it is still pure and clean. There is cherry fruit, plum and some some lovely spicy notes. It spends 6 months in oak to soften the tannins and this adds an extra layer of complexity.
As Jancis notes, much of France’s Cinsault goes into rose. We stock the Domaine Gairoird from Provence. This is unusual in that it is organic, from an area where this is still sadly quite rare. The wine is, of course, suitably pale in colour but with lovely perfume and a classic rasp of crisp, fruity tension. There is a lot of flavour here and excellent length. That crunchy style of fruit showing through again.
As well as France and Lebanon, there seems to be a growing acknowledgement in South Africa that Cinsaut is something worth seeking out. In our mini collection you will find the lovely Whole Bunch Rose from Waterkloof, pale, crisp, savoury and incredible value. Also the very pretty Mantlepiece Cinsaut from Wildeberg which is somewhere between France and Lebanon in weight, still vibrantly fresh and juicy in a plummy, spicy, damson way.