(or Cinsault) is most often used as a blending
grape with other types. France has more Cinsaut
planted (50,000 hectares) than Cabernet
Sauvignon and there is as much Cinsaut acreage
planted in its former backdoor wine colony of
Cinsaut is one
of those "grower" varieties that easily produces
a very large crop of 6 to 10 tons per acre. At
this crop level, it offers little sensory interest and imperceptible flavor
distinction. So much cinsaut is overcropped and used as "filler" that it is difficult for many wine critics to issue it any respect. When properly managed to a crop load of
just 2 to 4 tons per acre, it can produce quite
flavorful wines with penetrating aroma and soft tannins, easily
quaffable in their youth.
bunches rot easily, so it does best in drier
climes. The cinsaut vine is fairly drought
tolerant and has a fairly short growing season.
With cluster stems that easily detach from the
vine, cinsaut adapts well to machine harvesting. Large, black, thin-skinned, fleshy berries make cinsaut also attractive as eating grapes.
It is one of
the most often planted varieties in Southern
France (Bandol and the Languedoc), Algeria and Morocco, and is a major red
variety in Corsica, Lebanon, South Africa, and Tunisia.
It can also be found scattered around Italy and Eastern Europe. The North African plantings were particularly
important when, as colonies of France, their
wine was shipped across the Mediterranean for
blending. Even Australia has
some cinsaut planted, although it has
yet to achieve popularity there.
The grape was originally known as
"Hermitage" in South Africa (confusing, since the famed French
Hermitage is entirely Syrah). When a South
African professor crossed cinsaut with Pinot
Noir, he therefore named it Pinotage
(now the country's signature red wine). Cinsaut was the most widely planted red variety in South Africa until it was overtaken by cabernet sauvignon during the last decade of the 20th Century.
First imported to California in the 1860s, it was known as Black Malvoise and, blended with Zinfandel, labeled "Claret". Somehow surviving past Prohibition, it was made as wine into the 1960s, sometimes labeled Malvasia Nero. Acreage peaked in 1971 to a total of 810 statewide, but current surveys count less than 150.
made from cinsaut grapes can be very aromatic with a vaporous perfume
that assails the nostrils and supple texture that soothes the palate. Fairly low in tannin, it is
often made into rosé by itself or
blended, to brighten the fruit and tone down the
harsher edges of carignan, in particular.
Although officially sanctioned in
Châteauneuf du Pape, it is used by only a
few producers in their blends.
Cinsault Smell and/or Flavor
depends upon individual tasting ability and experience
and is also affected by terroir and seasonal conditions,
as well as viticultural and enological techniques.
This list therefore is
merely suggestive and neither comprehensive nor exclusive.
Fruit: strawberry, red
Terroir: musk, meat
(light): vanilla, coconut, sweet
(heavy): oak, smoke, toast,
|Spice: perfume, paint
Age: cedar, cigar box, musk,
mushroom, earth, leather
by Jim LaMar
1. Jancis Robinson (ed), Oxford
Companion to Wine, 3rd Edition, (Oxford University Press: London) 2006
2. Steven Spurrier & Michel Dovaz, Academie du Vin, Complete Wine Course (G.P. Putnam & Sons, New York) 1983
3. Charles Sullivan, A Companion to California Wine: An Encyclopedia of Wine and Winemaking from the Mission Period to the Present (University of California Press: Berkeley) 1998
4. Jancis Robinson (ed), Jancis Robinson's Guide to Wine Grapes, (Oxford University Press: New York) 1996
5. Benjamin Lewin, Wine Myths and Reality, (Vendage Press: Dover, DE) 2010
6. L. Peter Christensen, Nick K. Dokoozlian, M. Andrew Walker, James A Wolpert, et all. Wine Grape Varieties in California (University of California, Agricultural and Natural Resources Publications: Oakland) 2003