Cinsault – A Blending Specialist
Texas Wine Collective - Carl’s Corner
Cinsault – A Blending Specialist (Jun-2021)
Cinsault (sin-SOH or san-SOH) or Cinsaut (without the “l”) is a common red grape in the Rhône Valley of southern France. Because Cinsault is heat and drought tolerant, it is also important in the southern French region of Languedoc-Roussillon and former French colonies of Algeria and Morocco. The origin of the grape is uncertain, but it likely came from some place along the eastern Mediterranean. Cinsault produces brightly colored red wines with a softer, less tannic character, and is often blended with grapes like Grenache, Carignan (care-in-yawn) and Syrah to impart softness, spicy flavors, and fresh fruit aromas.
Cinsault is also very popular in the Middle East and northern Africa because of its heat tolerance, drought resistance and capacity to produce large volumes of wine. Cinsault is a key component in Chateau Musar, the most famous wine from Lebanon, which has been widely recognized by wine lovers around the world. In South Africa, Cinsault is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon to generate softer, easier-drinking blends. Cinsault was also one of the parent grapes, along with Pinot Noir, of South Africa’s most famous cross variety, Pinotage. Significant plantings of Cinsault exist in Australia, where, again, it is used extensively in blends with Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.
The Bechtold Vineyard in Lodi, CA, planted in 1885, contains the oldest Cinsault vines in the U.S. Cinsault has spread to other parts of CA with warmer climates, and plantings have been made in the hot, dry region of eastern Washington’s Columbia River Valley. Again, because of its heat and drought resistant characteristics, the variety has raised a lot of interest in the southwestern U.S., i.e., Arizona, New Mexico, Colorado and Texas.
Cinsault vines can carry heavy crop-loads, upwards of 10 tons per acre, but better wines are produced when yields are controlled below 5-6 tons per acre. Cinsault can be susceptible to vine disease under moist, humid conditions, so it works best in a warm, arid climate (think Texas High Plains). It produces large cylindrical bunches of grapes with blackish-red skins that provide red-colored wines when fermented. Cinsault adds structure, perfume, and a softness to rosé wines, and can often be the major component (there are lots of current rosé options containing Cinsault in Texas). Strawberry and ripe red cherry are primary aromas for Cinsault, and these follow through on the palate along with darker raspberry, currant and black cherry flavors. As Cinsault wines age, they take on a brickish red color and flavors of grilled meat, salt brine, cocoa and espresso.
The current wine at Texas Wine Collective that features Cinsault is the Austin Street Red from Brennan Vineyards. This fruity, lightly-colored, medium-bodied blend is sourced from Texas High Plains fruit - Cinsault (Reddy Vyd, Terry Cty) and Alicante Bouschet (Diamante Doble Vyds, Terry Cty). It has been very popular with most folks visiting the tasting room and is a wine for summer occasions - picnics, patio lounging, and can certainly be enjoyed lightly chilled. Y’all don’t miss out on this one.