Showing posts with label Cinsault. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cinsault. Show all posts

Tuesday, February 7, 2023

This Cinsault, a red star of the Eastern Pyrenees, will put a grin on your face!

This Cinsault, a red star of the Eastern Pyrenees, will put a grin on your face!

Foulards Rouges, Le Fond de l'Air est Rouge* - Vin de France 2021, 12% ABV

€23,50. Stockists: 64 Wine Dublin, Bradley’s of Cork, Greenman Dublin, Le Caveau Kilkenny

Cinsault is one of my favourite grapes even though many critics are inclined to run it down saying it is “a minor blending grape” and “lacks the prestige of..such as Syrah or Mourvèdre”. 

I have been impressed by some excellent examples of the variety from the Itata valley of Chile, one involving the famous Pedro Parra, the  Clos des Fous “Pour Ma Geule” (blend, mostly Cinsault), and another by Aurelio Montes, the Montes “Outer Limits” Cinsault. 

Itata shows prominently in Wine-Searcher’s search stats for the variety but the most sought after are those from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon. Yes, while most of the worlds’s Cinsault plantings are in France, the grape has found a welcome and suitable home in countries such as Algeria, Morocco and Tunisia.

This wine has a mid-ruby colour. Bright, red berry fruits head the aromas and also lead on the palate. It is soft and deep, notes of raspberry and cherry, sweet spice also. Quite complex too all the way through to the refreshing finish. Highly Recommended.

In the south of France, the traditional and somewhat famous food pairing for a fine and light Cinsault wine such as this is with Escargot, garlic butter and a French baguette. Importers Le Caveau say it's a perfect summer red to serve quite cool with grilled foods, charcuterie and mild cheeses. Wine-Searcher suggest pork and chicken, char-grilled vegetables and even Thai or Vietnamese cuisines while Wine Folly say well spiced vegetarian Indian fare.

The terroir is Les Albères in the Pyrenées-Orientales, 10km from the picturesque seaside village of Collioure (that those who have holidayed in the area will know) where the maritime influence brings the freshness that enables the wines to reach phenolic maturity without excessive alcohol. ..They say they “work.. according to the goodwill of the moon. The harvest is carried out in joy and good humour with small boxes of 13 kg to preserve the intact bunches. ..vinification is natural, i.e. without input if possible (indigenous yeast, no sulfur, filtration or fining)… Bottling is done manually and by gravity (no pump)…Purity is the watchword here; the first thing you notice is the freshness of the wines, and, dare one say, some pretty juicy fruit.”

Local beach Argeles-sur-Mer

When Jean-François Nicq and a childhood friend Bijan Mohamadi (math teacher at the Faculty of Montpellier), bought the estate in the Eastern Pyrenees, they baptised it "domain of red scarves", a memory of their militant past.. All peaceful here now, though the bottle comes with a notice: “Attention danger and there will not (enough) be for everyone! Arm yourself!”

* The wine name, Le Fond de l'Air est Rouge, translates as The Bottom of the Air is Red. Puzzling! But then I read that in 1977 a French political film had the same title, the red hinting perhaps that there was socialism in the air. The English title for the same film was A Grin Without A Cat! Did that cat have a red scarf?

Monday, June 1, 2020

Pedro Parra and Pais the links in this very highly recommended Chilean double

Pedro Parra and Pais the links in this very highly recommended Chilean double

Pedro Parra “Vinista” Itata Chile 2018, 13%, €23.99 
Blackrock Cellar, Redmonds, The Corkscrew and

This wine from southern Chile is a light to mid ruby. Wild red berries feature in the aromas, with herb notes in the background. Refreshing bright juicy fruit on the palate, a hint of spice too. String quartet rather than full orchestra, it is immediately harmonious right through to the engaging finalé. 

A young beauty from ancient Pais vines. Don’t say no just because you’re not familiar with the Pais grape (also known as Mission). I’m loving this one. Very Highly Recommended. I’m also putting his Cinsault on my list. And I read somewhere that Gamay may also be considered by Pedro.

Pedro Parra (see also Clos de Fous below) is a renowned soil and vineyard mapping expert with a Masters and PhD in Precision Agriculture and Terroir from the Institut Agronomique National in Paris. There are photos of him all over the internet, with 99% of them showing him climbing out of a 6’ deep hole, holes he excavates for soil analysis purposes. No wonder he is also known as Dr Terroir!

He has spent decades working internationally but bit by bit realised he really wanted his own vineyard and winery and so he set up in Itata near the ocean, 500 kms south of Santiago, the capital of Chile. And this gem, the fruit sourced from 120 year old vines planted at 300 m above sea level, is one of the results. The wine has spent one year in untoasted foudre and then spent 8 months in bottle before release. Time well spent!

Pais is a red grape variety of great historical importance. According to it was the first Vitis Vinifera grape variety to be exported from the old world to the new world in the 16th century.

Clos des Fous “Pour Ma Geule” Itata Chile 2016, 14%, €19.99
Blackrock Cellar, Grapevine, Green Man Wines, Martins , The Corkscrew and

Mid Ruby is the colour of this Itata blend (of País, Carignan and mostly Cinsault). It boasts a nose full of red berries, some spice too. There is quite an arresting reveal on the palate, berries and cherries, generous and silky, and there’s a lively acidity in the mix, a harmonious wine, with fine tannins too in the long finish. Very Highly Recommended

The name is a cheeky French expression, to describe the stash of wine the producer is keeping to drink himself (for my gob and my gob only!).  Quite a few French words on the  label including assemblage (blend).

Clos des Fous is about four friends, four crazy guys that have chosen to ignore the experts about where to plant vineyards and to trust their own instincts. But don’t worry, the four are experts themselves, experts with a mission. The four are winemaker Pedro Parra (see his wine above), François Massoc (extensive experience in Burgundy), winemaker Paco Leyton (Altos las Hormigas, Puculan) and businessman Albert Cussen (strengths in admin and finance). 

They are about growing wines over “the Chilean extreme, fresh and unpredictable places, looking for natural balance”. “This is a unique and groundbreaking project based on a delicate and novel terroir selection. Following the Burgundy philosophy, our focus is to achieve wines with minimal intervention, letting the terroir express itself.” 

Clos des Fous (the madmen’s vineyard) is highly praised in Wines of South America: “Their approach produces wines that distinctively express their terroir, made with organic fruit and using techniques that are so minimalist that the wines are vinified without ‘safety nets such as fining or filtering'.”

Looks like they have a good thing going here at Clos Des Fous. Already they have built up quite a portfolio - Pinot Noir is their signature wine -  and you can expect more as they build on Pais, Cinsault, and Carignan. There is granite here so perhaps Gamay and Grenache will be added to the list!

Wednesday, November 6, 2019

Watch for these excellent wines in O'Brien's November - December Sale!

Two excellent wines from South America feature in O'Brien's current promotion.

Dozens and dozens of wines are reduced in the current O'Brien's promotion that runs up to the end of the year. I've picked a few and have a couple of South American beauties below for you. Some of the others are pretty good too and I'll come to those in the next week or so. In the meantime, check out this magnificent Malbec from over 1,300 meters in the Andes foothills - that's higher than Carrauntoohill. The other, a Cinsault, a very pleasant light red, comes from the highly regard Di Martino winery in Chile.

Once upon a time, we bought red and white and maybe rosé. But now you'll see organic, biological, natural, even orange on labels. Can be confusing, I know. O'Brien's have put a handy leaflet together to explain the terms and I'll reproduce parts here from time to time. The first two are below - hope they help!

Casa de Uco El Salvaje Malbec Los Chacayes (IG) 2016, 13.5%, €16.95 (19.95)

Purple is the colour of this organic wine from a high altitude vineyard in the Mendoza region of Argentina. The rich aromas of ripe dark fruit rise to meet you. And on the palate the big flavours (plum, dark cherry and blackberry) are matched by an excellent acidity, a harmony relayed to the decent finish (not overly long). An immediately engaging wine and Very Highly Recommended. Just 2,500 bottles are produced and the wine has been fermented in large concrete eggs.

Los Chacayes is one of four wine areas in Tunuyan in the Uco valley. The vineyard Casa de Uco is located in the valley, tucked against the foothills of the Andes Mountains, and close to Mendoza. El Salvaje (wild) also figures prominently on the label and is the overall name given to a series of organic wines that also includes, among others, a Pinot Noir and a white blend.

This wine is 100% Malbec from certified organic vineyards located at 1300 metres above sea level. This elevation maintains the fresh acidity in the grapes. Unoaked, this is a pure expression of the Uco Valley terroir. 

Enjoy with beef, lamb or char-grilled vegetables. In Argentina, I’m told they pair it with juicy Sirloin of pork, Braised lamb shoulder with roasted parsnips, or Fillet steak with chimichurri. Wine Folly says the perfect Malbec Food Pairing is Black pepper buffalo burgers with blue cheese mushrooms and rosemary infused garlic kale chips. Sounds great to me.

Alberto Antonini, Winemaker Casa de Uco, is enthusiastic: "After 16 years of experience in the Uco Valley, I can affirm that this is the exact area where the best wines of Mendoza are produced. The proximity to the Andes Mountains, the ideal day to night temperature ranges, and the fertile soil with excellent drainage, make this land exceptional to produce high end wines and develop the viticulture and enology in the most natural way possible"

De Martino “Gallardia” Cinsault Itata (DO) 2017, 13%, 14.95 (19.95)

This delightful 100% Cinsault is a light ruby, quite like Pinot Noir. Aromas are rather intense: red fruit (including raspberry) mainly, plus floral elements. Mouthfeel is soft. Smooth and fresh on the palate, the raspberry prominent again, good acidity too, and a pleasing finish as well. Highly Recommended. Maybe Very Highly Recommended if you love these light dry reds as many people do nowadays.

De Martino say this, from their Guarilihue vineyard (22km from the sea), “is a tribute to the coastal vineyards located by the southern region of Chile; it is the cradle of the country’s viticulture, with vines dating back to 1551…. A sustainable agriculture, including dry farming and ploughing with horses are practiced in our vineyards.”

Wines of South America has a very high regard for De Martino and have included some of their wines in Top Ten varietal lists. De Martino winemaker Marcelo Retamal is one of the country’s most accomplished and is known as el doctor.  “He uses no new oak, preferring larger older casks, nd promotes the use of the old ceramic tinjaras, clay amphorae, for fermentation. There are no cultivated yeasts, no filtration, and no intervention.”

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Three Lesser-known Grapes. Petit Verdot, Pinotage, Cinsault

Three Lesser-known Grapes
Petit Verdot, Pinotage, Cinsault

You won't find any of this trio in the comfort zone of “international” grapes. And, aside from Pinotage, you’ll not often find them in a bottle on their own. But I have and I’m very glad I did.

Petit Verdot is highly valued in Bordeaux but generally only as a small contributor to the red blend there. It ripens late and is therefore well suited to the Languedoc where our delicious example comes from.

Pinotage, according to Grapes and Vines, “is potentially South Africa’s greatest treasure…. and yet South Africans are some of its fiercest critics”. The varietal was created in Stellenbosch (it is a university town) in 1925 by crossing Pinot Noir and Cinsault. Our bottle is one of the more modern lighter types, bright and juicy.

And that same Cinsault (Samsó in Spain, Cinsaut in most other countries) is found in our other bottle, all sourced by the way by Le Caveau in Kilkenny. The producer in Chile, a Frenchman, has made a natural aromatic wine and spells it Cinsault.

At a tasting last year in L’Atitude, Francesca Jara said of it: “Five years ago, natural wine was almost an underground movement in Chile. This is 100% Cinsault, from really old vines (80 years plus), no added sulphites, no oak.”

Les Hauts de Median Petit Verdot, Pays D’Oc (IGP) 2015, 13%, €13.95  Le Caveau

These Petit Verdot grapes are grown on the slopes of a volcano in the Languedoc (between Béziers and the sea). Winemaker Aurélie Trebuchon-Vic advises there may be a slight deposit - “a sign of traditional wine-making that respects the natural qualities of the fruit". No chemicals and no pesticides are used.

Colour is a deep enough red, a glossy one. Aromas are pretty intense, dark fruits and herby notes too. And there is a super balance of fruit (mainly cherry), spice and acidity in the medium body. It is harmonious, fresh and delicious, with good length, a lovely surprise and Very Highly Recommended. Aurélie recommends enjoying it “with some friends and grilled meat”. More at

Inkawu Pinotage 2013, Laibach Vineyards, Stellenbosch (South Africa), 14.5%, €22.90 Le Caveau

Laibach Vineyards, who specialise in natural and organic wine,  is situated in one of the prime red wine growing areas of South Africa. Early morning picking means no warm fruit reaches the cellar. This particular wine was aged in French oak (75% new) for 15 months. An entirely natural sediment may form, so decant. By the way, no deposit at all in my bottle.

It has a ruby red colour and you’ll find dark fruit and vanilla in the aromas. It is rich and spicy, complex, lots of flavours (including red cherry, toast). The balance is spot-on and there is a long dry finish. 

Inkawu is the Xhosa name for fun monkeys, a hint that the wine is “a playful, high-spirited expression” of the new South Africa. Maybe so. In any event, the care and hard work, the respect for the land and the fruit, has been rewarded and you may share by enjoying this Very Highly Recommended wine.

Louis-Antoine Luyt Cinsault 2013, Maule Valley (Chile), 14%, €23.50 Le Caveau

Louis-Antoine Luyt, trained by the renowned Marcel Lapierre in Beaujolais, is renowned for the character of his Chilean wines which are organic and natural, some made from very old vines indeed. Quite a character himself - some more detail here.  

This full-bodied ruby red, with no added sulphites and no oak, has inviting aromas of cherry fruit. Lots of fruit flavour, some spice, notes of aniseed follow along with a refreshing acidity and then comes the long dry finalé. Tannins are a little rustic but less so than when I tasted it a year ago. Easy drinking and, as importer Pascal Rossignol might say, easy to digest, this Cinsault is Highly Recommended. Be sure to decant this one!

At last year’s tasting, Francisca said Chile has more than cheap wines, more than the major varieties. “Irish supermarkets don't have what we drink in Chile.” You won’t find this in supermarkets either so major thanks to Le Caveau for giving us the chance to get out of the comfort zone.

* The striking label is based on old Chilean bus signage.