Erin Doman on August 4, 2016 0 Comments If you are new to the world of wine, there are a few things that you should learn. Picking complementary wine can be challenging, but it is made easier if you know a bit about the drink. For example, Cinsault, sometimes spelled Cinsaut, is a grape that is primarily used to blend, but sometimes it is used on its own to create a wine. To learn more about this variety, you should look at the history, the grape, the taste and the aroma, as well as any potential food pairings. History of Cinsault The origins of this grape are a little murky. Some believe that it is an ancient variety that originated in the Hérault region of France. Others agree that it could have been brought to this French region by traders from an eastern part of the Mediterranean. While the past may be unclear, what is clear is where this type of grape is now. In South Africa, the grape was originally known as “Hermitage,” which should not be confused with the entirely Syrah famed French wine. Until recently, this grape was actually the most planted red variety in all of South Africa. This particular grape is also widely grown in France and Algeria and occasionally in the California area. France is home to more Cinsault plants than Cabernet Sauvignon. Algeria, a former wine colony, is also home to a lot of these vines. Cinsault was not imported to California until the 1860s. It was quite popular for a while, but currently there are very few vineyards in California with this particular grape. Here is a quick and easy guide to where this grape is grown and why it’s popular there: Morocco: The grape is popular in Morocco because of its drought resistance. Corsica: This grape is declining in popularity in Corsican vineyards. Tunisia: This grape is also popular here due to its drought resistance. Lebanon: The grape is used in Chateau Musar, and is an important part of the blend. Italy: There is only a small part of Italian vineyards that grow this grape, but it has become more popular to add to Apulian blends. Eastern Europe: Popular here thanks to its drought resistance and large yields. Australia: Here the grape is grown under the names of Black Prince, Ulliade, Oeillade and Blue Imperial. France: This is the fourth most popular grape in France and is often used in Langeudoc-Roussilon and rose wines in Provence. Algeria: Here the grape is used to make large amounts of wine and because of its drought resistant characteristics. USA: The grape is most popular in California, but can also be found in the Yakima Valley in Washington. Characteristics of Cinsault Cinsault has a lot of different names that it is known by. A few of the synonyms include: Bourdales Kek Calibre Cincout Cubilier Grappu De La Dordogne Negru De Sarichioi Pampous Sensu Takopulo Kara West’s White Prolific Cinsault is not your everyday variety. This grape is dark, thick-skinned and rather large. It usually ripens early in the harvesting season and is known to produce a large yield. In fact, it is common for this grape to yield six to ten tons per acre of crop. However, when it is allowed to grow to this extent, the amount it provides has very little flavor, so it has to be used as a filler. To get the best results, this grape is managed so it only produces two to four tons per acre. This limitation allows the grape to add more flavor to wines along with a stronger aroma, softer tannins and a smoother taste. Cinsault clusters easily break apart from the vine, which makes it a good grape to harvest with a machine. This grape prefers hot and dry climates. If it is grown in too damp of conditions, it will start to rot. The bunches are relatively tight, which is one of the characteristics that causes it to be susceptible to rotting in damp climates. That being said, the grape is fairly drought-resistant. This grape isn’t sensitive to many diseases, but you do have to watch out for two types of mildew: downy and powdery. Cinsault Taste & Aroma The taste of a wine produced with Cinsault grapes can vary drastically. Because this grape is often used as a filler or blending grape, it can produce anything from a rose to a Carignan. The taste and aroma can vary depending on the other grapes used and the individual processing methods. It’s common for a Cinsault-based wine to have a strong aroma of: Strawberry Red Cherry Berries Paint Perfume The taste, on the other hand, is known to include flavors of: Nectarine Cardamom Peppercorn Peach Raspberry Pomegranate What’s interesting about this particular variety is that it can provide strikingly different bouquets depending on how it is processed. When processed in a heavy oak barrel, flavors of oak, smoke, toast and tar are brought forward. When in a light oak, it can give off flavors of coconut, sweet wood and vanilla. Due to the land that it’s grown on, this grape tends to give off musky and meaty aromas. When it’s allowed to age in the bottle, it can give off aromas of cedar, musk, mushroom, earth, cigar box and leather, but it is often best enjoyed while still young. Food Pairing Suggestions Thanks to its variety, Cinsault is known to go with a lot of different foods. You can pair it with escargot, stew, hot smoked salmon filets, braised and roasted meat dishes, Moroccan lamb, grilled vegetables, Thai curry, samosas, fried dough, pizza, fresh fruit, Gruyere cheese and many other dishes. It does, of course, all depend on the blend you get, so be sure to confer with your local sommelier for more specific pairing suggestions. The Many Faces of Cinsault When you encounter this wine, you are likely going to find that it is light and refreshing and easy on the palate. The great thing about this variety is that you can find a Cinsault blend that fits in any budget. Whether you are looking for something more expensive or something a little cheaper, you can easily find the perfect bottle for you.