In this blog series, we are rediscovering some of the “forgotten” grapes and wines of France. My last article covered Mourvedre, a beautiful earthy, gamey, leathery wine. The focus of today’s article is Cinsault or Cinsaut, (pronounced “sahn-SOH” regardless of how you spell it), a red grape and wine that is not familiar to most Americans, even though it is the fourth most widely planted grape variety in France.
Why the lack of familiarity? Three key reasons:
- Cinsault’s pink hue ~ The rosé color hasn’t gotten traction here in the United States, notably among men. (Ladies, here’s a chance to start a trend!)
- Cinsault’s typical use as a blending wine ~ Some blending wines are such because they don’t offer much all by themselves, and the blending gives them stature. In Cinsault’s case, her aroma, fruitiness, and “charm” (bet you didn’t know there’s a quality of taste in wine called charm!) perfectly offsets heavy masculine traits in certain wines, like Carignan and Grenache.
- Cinsault’s overproduction ~ According to winepros.org, because Cinsault is so easy to grow, it is often overproduced (6 to 10 tons per acre), which “offers little sensory interest and imperceptible flavor distinction. So much Cinsault 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.”
Cinsault can be considered one of the truly original French wines, having been cultivated there for hundreds of years. It is believed actually to have originated somewhere between Provence and Languedoc. As a varietal that grows better on a hilly slope with drainage, it also prefers hot, drier climates, being quite susceptible to rot. This also partially explains why Cinsault flourishes in countries with similar weather attributes, like Algeria, Morocco, Tunisia and Lebanon (the other factor being, of course, the French influence there).
As a standalone wine, you are most likely to find Cinsault in the form of a Rosé. If you can find one from grapes that weren’t overproduced, you are likely to find a low tannin, aromatic wine with nice strawberry and cherry notes. You’ll find that it pairs with foods ranging from pizza to pork to samosas. If you find some, try it and share your experience here!