The Cinsault grape doesn’t often get a lot of respect. It’s a prolific vine that can produce light wines of little distinction. But old vine Cinsault put in the hands of outstanding winemakers is another thing altogether.
In this article, we review superb old vine Cinsaults from the 132 year old Bechthold Vineyard in Lodi, California, as well as old vine Cinsaults from Stellenbosch and the Swartland in South Africa. The wines were tasted in Lodi and Cape Town. Also, see our article from last year where we did a comparative tasting of old vine Cinsault from the Swartland and from Chile’s Itata region. And watch our video interview on South African old vines with Rosa Kruger on the International Wine Review YouTube channel.
In 1886, Joseph Spenker, a German immigrant planted 25 acres of a grape called Black Malvoisier. It wasn’t until 2003 that a UC Davis scientist identified the grape as Cinsault. The vineyard is still owned by Spenker’s great granddaughter. The self-rooted, bush vine vineyard is farmed organically by Phillips Farms, and several wineries in Lodi and elsewhere in California (e.g., Turley, Bonny Doon) make wine from its fruit. We will soon be posting a video interview with Kevin Phillips, who farms the Bechthold Vineyard, on the International Wine Review YouTube channel. Look for it.
Estate Crush 2016 Rosé of Cinsault Lodi ($26) 89 This is a lovely, pale pink wine picked for rosé and which spends 12 hours on the skins. It is sourced from six rows at the south end of Bechthold Vineyards near the canal where yields are the highest and the fruit the lightest. It is fresh tasting, pure and red fruited with a dry mineral-like finish.
Fields Family Wines 2016 Cinsault Bechthold Vineyard ($28) 92 The Field’s Family Cinsault is one of the finest wines sourced from the Bechthold Vineyard, famous for its old vine Cinsault. Medium red in color, it offers a ripe red raspberry and maraschino cherry nose. It has a gorgeous palate of very pretty light red berry fruit with bright acidity NS good concentration. Made following semi-carbonic maceration. Matured in neutral French oak barrels.
McCay Cellars 2015 Cinsault Lodi ($35) 91 Made 30% whole cluster and aged in neutral oak, Mike McCay sources his fruit for this wine from the historic Bechthold Vineyard. His parcel of the vineyard produces spicy red cherry and berry fruit with a more earthy, herbal character. Finishes with rich extract on the finish.
Michael David 2015 Ancient Vine Cinsault Lodi ($25) 92 This Cinsault is crafted via carbonic maceration with natural yeast and is matured 9 months in French oak. As a result it is very fruit rich and lively on the palate and has pure flavors of plum, black cherry and strawberry with outstanding balance. Sourced from the self-rooted, 132 year old bush vines of the Bechthold Vineyard. Adam Mettler is the accomplished winemaker at Michael David.
Onesta 2015 Cinsault Lodi ($35) 91+ This lovely 2015 Cinsault exhibits flavors of pure fresh strawberry, plum and cherry and has a soft full texture on the palate. It is concentrated and flavorful with a long persistent finish. It is hand harvested, sorted and destemmed with 20% of the juice bled off for the rosé. The wine is aged in neutral French oak barrels for one year. Onesta 2016 Cinsault Rosé Lodi ($28) 90 This is a salmon colored rose of Cinsault, delicate and soft on the palate with aromas and flavors of strawberry. A blend of 50% saignée and 50% direct press whole clusters, it is flavorful, long lasting and dry on the finish.
Van Loggerenberg Winery Lukas Van Loggerenberg, who studied at Elsenburg, was until recently the winemaker at Druk-My-Niet in Paarl, but he ventured out on his own beginning with the 2016 vintage. His production may still be tiny, but his winemaking receives international accolades. The fruit for the Geronimo Cinsault comes from dry-farmed bush vines planted on decomposed granite. 80% whole bunch fermented. Dreyfus Ashby imports his wines to the UK.
Van Loggerenberg 2016 Geronimo Cinsault Stellenbosch 93 Lukas’ Cinsault has been described as Burgundy meets the Rhone. It shows a brightly perfumed bouquet of red cherry, raspberry oand pomegranate and good concentration of red fruit and earthy spice on a fresh, balanced palate. Finishes long with rich extract. Elegant. 80% whole bunch fermented and aged 6 months in neutral oak.
Sadie Family Winery
After years of working the world’s wine regions, Eben started his Sadie Family winery in 2000 and immediately gained recognition as one of South Africa’s very best and iconoclastic winemakers. His Cinsault is part of his Ouwingerdreeks project of wines made from fruit grown in South Africa’s oldest vineyards. The grapes are sourced from a block of 50 year old vines on the northwest slope of Kasteelberg Mountain in the Swartland, and the wine is named after the snakelike (Puffadder) form of the mountain. Yields are just 28 hl/ha. US Importer: Broadbent
Sadie Family 2016 Pofadder Swartland 95 The 2016 Pofadder Cinsault is outstanding, at least as good as the 2015 vintage that we reviewed and gave 94 points to last year. It offers very clean scents of spicy red fruit and a tightly focused, pure palate of fruit and minerals, finishing with fine gripping tannins. From old vine Cinsault planted in 1966 on slate soils. Eben makes the wine by putting whole clusters in an old wooden open-top fermenter and leaves it on the skins for about a month before pressing directly to an old wood cask using a small basket press.