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A parent of ever-popular Pinotage, Cinsaut is making a comeback in South African cellars


If you enjoy your wine, the French cultivar of Cinsaut may ring a bell. In 1925, Stellenbosch viticulturist Professor Abraham Izak Perold crossbred Cinsaut, also known as Hermitage, with Pinot Noir to produce the much-loved Pinotage.

While Pinotage went on to fame as our proudly South African red wine, Cinsaut – typically spelled “Cinsault” in France – fell out of favour despite being widely planted across the local winelands and used as a crucial component in blended red wines. Enjoy your Chateau Libertas, Tassenberg or Alto Rouge? In the past they have all benefitted from a good splash of Cinsaut.

But local wine-lovers are happily rediscovering the potential of Cinsaut bottled on its own, as a handful of adventurous winemakers put this grape from southern France back in the spotlight. Styles range from well-oaked wines that will please Cabernet Sauvignon drinkers, through to lower-alcohol, light and fruity bottlings. Dubbed the “Pinot Noir of the Swartland” it can be served slightly chilled, making it a perfect red wine for the warm days of summer.

Waterkloof “Seriously Cool” Cinsaut 2015

Produced from low-yield 40-year-old bush vines on the cool slopes of the Helderberg, this Cinsaut balances soft tannins and lively acidity with “a combination of blackcurrant, raspberries and spices, infused with mild earthy notes” on the nose, says winemaker Nadia Barnard. Serious in structure, it’s best enjoyed cool, at about 14°C.

Bosman Family Vineyards “Twyfeling” 2015

“The renaissance of Cinsaut is upon us,” says Corlea Fourie, winemaker at this family-owned estate on the outskirts of Wellington. One of only two Cinsauts to score five stars in the 2017 Platter’s Guide to South African wine, Twyfeling is an ideal choice to be enjoyed with food. Made from bush vines on an historic Bovlei valley site dubbed “Hermitage-kop”, the wine is a big-hitting example of the style, with berry flavours balanced by concentrated savoury notes, tobacco and spice. It is barrel-aged in French oak to ensure plenty of structure and ageing potential.

Neil Ellis Groenekloof Cinsaut 2014

Although made in Neil Ellis’s Stellenbosch cellar, grapes were sourced from a 40-year-old bush vine vineyard in the unique Groenekloof ward outside Darling. Here the warmer climate is tempered by the cool ocean, and this top-tier Cinsaut shows off plenty of fruit, spice and perfume. Underpinned by subtle use of older oak barrels it’s an excellent food wine that will get better over a few years in the cellar.

Words: Richard Holmes | Images: Supplied

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