The biggest insight to arise out of a recent Cape Winemakers Guild technical tasting on Cinsaut presented by Etienne le Riche of Le Riche Wines is that there is no need to decide whether the variety works better on its own or in a blend but rather that these are two very different propositions.
Le Riche showed four flights of four wines each, these tasted blind:
Flight One: 1. Oude Libertas 1972; 2. AA Badenhorst CWG Kalmoesfontein Ramnasgras 2012; 3. Landskroon 2015; 4. Natte Valleij Simonsberg-Paarl 2016
Flight Two: 1. Turley Bechthold Vineyard Lodi 2015 (USA); 2. Waterkloof Seriously Cool 2015; 3. Naudé Old Vine 2015; 4. Kaapzicht Skuinsberg 2015
Flight Three: 1. Michael David Ancient Vine 2015 (USA); 2. The Old Vine Series Pofadder 2015; 3. Mas du Chene Les Copains Debordent 2015 (France); 4. Van Loggerenberg Geronimo 2015
Flight Four: 1. Chateau Musar 2007 (Lebanon); 2. Le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon Cinsaut 2015; 3. Leeu Passant Dry Red 2015; 4. Neil Ellis CWG Insignium 2012
Some general observations: Single variety Cinsaut is on trend because of its ability to make easy-drinking, lighter bodied wines. The Landskroon 2015, while by no means profound, was impossible not to like and a complete bargain at R44 a bottle from the farm.
The question is: How much to expect from single-variety Cinsaut? The argument can be made that early adopter wine-geeks are over-estimating its worth simply because it’s not yet mainstream. In this regard, the Badenhorst Kalmoensfontein Ramnasgras CWG 2012 as sold on the 2014 auction where it fetched an average price of R2 773.33 a case (or R462 a bottle) was drinking well enough but lacked true complexity (score: 88/100).
On the other hand, Turley Bechthold Vineyard Lodi 2015 (from a block planted in 1886) and The Old Vine Series Pofadder 2015 were my best of the bunch and strikingly good (both 92/100). Best to drink modern Cinsaut earlier rather than later?
Getting Cinsaut just right seems tricky – pick too early and the wine can seem a little skeletal (the 12% alcohol Naudé Old Vines 2015 was particularly angular on the night); pick too late and the wine can seem clumsy (the 14.16% Kaapzicht Skuinsberg 2015 had its fans but lacked grace and poise for me).
The last flight of Cinsaut blends was a treat, in particular the Musar 2007 which was detailed, balanced and very, very long (95/100). Not far behind it came the Leeu Passant Dry Red 2015, a blend of 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 34% Cabernet Franc and 31% Cinsault – this is a wine which has attracted much acclaim since its launch earlier in the year and it was reassuring to see it show so well in this context (score: 93/100).
For more on the subject, read Yvonne le Riche’s CWM dissertation here.