Cinsault tasters Irina Axenova and Hattie Mills

The light-skinned, softly fruity Cinsault grape hasn’t had much of a look-in over the years. If you’ve never heard of Cinsault wine, it’s no surprise. Grown in much of southern France and elsewhere as a component for red blends, Cinsault is rarely made into wine in its own right.

Here in Chile, swathes of dry-farmed, bush-trained  vines planted in the Itata valley in the mid 20th century languished for decades alongside other unfashionable varieties until winemakers recently began to realise their potential.

Old vines tend to have deeper roots and produce small quantities of more concentrated, flavoursome grapes than newer upstarts. And concentrated grapes can be made into superb wines. And so, just a few years ago, the first Cinsault wine was produced in Chile.

And Chilean Cinsault wine has caught on. Some of Chile’s bigger producers, like Concha y Toro and Miguel Torres are buying in grapes to make their Cinsault wines, while a number of small producers in Itata are making their own versions.

All are light in body and tannins with fresh acidity and juicy red fruit. Some are more aromatic than others. In our tasting De los Viñateros Bravos was the one that took the floor with its soft tannins, light colour and floral aroma.

These wines would be fine as appetizers, slightly chilled to a little below room temperature (15°C) and served with lighter meals, such as white meat, fish or salad. An excellent alternative to Pinot Noir.

Cinsault wine lineup
Cinsault wine lineup

Tasting noes

A los Viñateros Bravos Gránitico 2016, 13.5% ABV

This was the most aromatic of the wines we tried, with notes of flowers, red fruit like cherries and cranberries and some spice like cloves and cinnamon with orange peel. In the mouth, this was a dry, medium-bodied wine with light tannins, fresh mineral acidity and fruity flavours.

Trifulco, 15% ABV

This wine was the darkest in colour, though still light compared to other types of red wine. It was also the one with the most body. The aromas were reminiscent of cranberries, sour cherries, rhubarb and spice. The wine was dry, fairly low in tannins but had high acidity, medium body and a medium finish. The flavours were of sour cherries with some earthy notes.

De Martino Gallardia 2016, 13% ABV

Another fragrant wine with aromas of fresh red fruit (raspberries, strawberries, cherries and cranberries), together with a slightly chalky note. This wine was dry with fresh acidity, medium tannins, medium alcohol, lots of fruit and minerality, medium body and finish.

Koyle Don Cande Cinsault 2015, 14% ABV

A fresh, easy-drinking wine with red fruit and herbal aromas.

Stockists in Chile: De Martino wines are available from Mundo del Vino and Cavas Reunidas; Koyle from Vinoteca, A los Viñateros Bravos from Edwards Fine Wines and la Cava del Pescador Viña del Mar and Trifulco from la Cava del Pescador Viña del Mar.

Stockists in the UK: De Martino de Viejas Tinajas Cinsault is stocked by Virgin Wines and Koyle Don Cande Cinsault is available at the Wine Society.

Have you tried a Cinsault wine? What did you think?

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