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At a glance

Country of Origin: France
Region of Origin: Languedoc
Typical Product: Red
Structure: Heavy
Climate: Hot
Soil Type: Gravel, Rocky
Serving Temp: 58 - 63F
Ageability: 5 to 7
Blends: Cote du Rhone
Sauces to Pair:
Meals to Pair:
Other Names*: Cinsaut


Cinsault, also known as Cinsaut, is originally from the Rhone  region of southern France were it is one of the 13 varietals that is allowed to be included in wines of the Chateauneuf-du-Pape region.  It is a very widely planted grape in its native France with total acreage even eclipsing that of Cabernet Sauvignon but the vast majority of the crop is used for blending.  Outside of France, perhaps it is most famous for being one of the two parents of South Africa's native Pinotage (along with Pinot Noir), which was hybridized in 1925.  In South Africa, Cinsault is known as Hermtiage, hence the '-tage' portion of the Pinotage name.

It arrived in California in the 1860s and has remained a niche wine grape having never had any significant number of wineries producing it.  There is currently less the 200 acres planted in California.  There is at least one Sonoma Winery located in the Dry Creek region and several Paso Robles Wineries that currently produce Cinsault as a Varietal.  It is listed as one of the Rhone wines that is championed by the Rhone Rangers, a group of Winemakers and Vineyard owners that promote Rhone Varietals in the US.  For some time it was known as Black Malvoise

Cinsault is a high yield grape so it must be thinned to retain any character.  Its fruit is red in color rather than purple like many other dark wine grape types.  It buds late so late spring rains can be problematic.  It has tight bunches so rot is a problem.  Drier climates reduce the risk of rot and mildew.

Cinsault is lighter in color than many of the other Rhone Varietals and in warmer temperatures can turn brick red not unlike Nebbiolo rather than the burgundy to purple color of most other Red wines.  Its flavor, which is low in tannins, is often described as 'soft'.  Cinsault is highly fragrant for a Red wine, which is why it is popular component in blends or added as a flavoring agent in Varietals.  It's often made into a Rose wine. 

Because it is lighter in tannins, Cinsault is not suited for long bottle aging so it should be enjoyed between 5 and 7 years after vintage.  Serve Cinsault from slightly under 60 degrees Fahrenheit to show off its character and allow it to warm slightly to optimum temperature rather than letting it over warm to room temperature.

* used in California

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