Cinsault wine grape

Along with Carignan, Cinsault is perhaps the commonest black grape most people have never heard of.  At the start of the Eighties it was the fourth most planted black variety in France, and was also huge in North Africa (still an important producer at the time), South Africa, and the eastern Mediterranean.  It is still the eighth most planted French black grape.  It’s important in South Africa too, though perhaps more famous there as the parent, along with Pinot Noir, of Pinotage.
Just like Carignan, it likes hot, dry climates, has a tendency to over-produce, and is almost invariably blended with other varieties.  But while Carignan needs blending to soften its hard tannic edges, Cinsault is just the opposite.  Its plump, fleshy grapes yield soft, perfumed, low-tannin wines ideally suited for blending with more macho varieties like Syrah and Carignan.
It can make quite bland wine if allowed to overcrop; unfortunately its lack of fame doesn’t provide much incentive for producers to curb its yields.  Perhaps the best Cinsault-based red is Lebanon’s famous Chateau Musar in which it is the main component of the blend, supported by Cabernet Sauvignon and a shifting array of other varieties.
Almost the only time it gets used unblended is for rosé, a style for which it is particularly well-suited.  Rosé needs some skin contact to acquire its pink colour but there’s a danger that hard, astringent tannins may be extracted at the same time.  These will be particularly off-putting in a wine intended to be drunk young and cold, so Cinsault’s reasonably deep colour combined with very low tannin levels make it perfect for pink.

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