Body: Light to medium (can be full with low yield / old vines)
Age: Most blended wines, and the rarer varietals, should be enjoyed within a few years of release.
Aka: Known as Ottavianello in Italy, occasionally as Blue Imperial in Australia and was traditionally called Hermitage in South Africa.
Cinsault (SAN-soh), also spelt Cinsaut, is an ancient variety that almost certainly originated in southeast France, where it still has a large presence today. Its main claim to fame is that it is one of the parents of the signature South African grape Pinotage, the other being Pinot Noir (Cinsault used to be called Hermitage in South Africa, hence the name).
It has an unfair reputation for poor quality due to the fact that it is normally grown to exploit its highly productive nature, and consequently yields are high – as yield increases quality decreases and more so than usual in the case of Cinsault.
As well as being very productive it is also heat tolerant and drought resistant, making it ideally suited to hot climate conditions. In comparison to other varieties it has a short growing season, given that it buds late and ripens early. Its berries are large, fleshy and thin skinned, also making it very suitable as an eating grape.
Due to the fact that acidity is high and tannins are low, Cinsault is almost always used for blending as it can soften more tannic wines and add a refreshing quality – these characteristics also make it excellent for producing Rosé wines. The body is light to medium, depending on yields, but can be more substantial when produced from old vines.
Only rarely is it made as a varietal wine and then only when yields are restricted or the vines are old. These varietal wines are very fruit forward and lively with pronounced aromas of red fruits, followed by flavors of strawberry, raspberry, morello cherry and pomegranate, as well as a white pepper spiciness and a savory quality that can be very reminiscent of good Beaujolais Cru.
Generally, Cinsault is blended with Grenache, Carignan and / or Syrah and plays a supporting, rather than a leading, role. Blended wines containing Cinsault, and the rarer varietal wines, are best enjoyed within a few years of release.
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