Closing in on a century of varietal wines, 76 with this post, it’s starting to be a bit more challenging. Even though I’ve encountered 98 different grapes, over 20 of them have been only as components in blends. There are a few that will be relatively easy to find as varietal wines, such as Prosecco and Tempranillo, but others such as Crouchen Blanc and Tibouren are rare enough in blends and nearly impossible to source as varietals. Today’s wine is a grape that proved more difficult than I had anticipated to find as a varietal, despite it being a relatively common variety. So I give you the surprisingly rare Morris of Rutherglen Cinsaut (Blue Imperial) 2010.
Whenever I think of Cinsaut I am reminded of the first time I heard it pronounced out loud, which was well after I was familiar with the word on paper. Unfortunately I was unable to connect how it sounds with the spelling, and came across as something of an idiot as a winemaker told me all about a grape which I had tasted numerous times. It didn’t help that it can also be spelled Cinsault, and in Australia it can also be known as Blue Imperial or even Black Prince (among many others).
Cinsaut is a red grape of southern France, though there are plantings in the south of Italy going back centuries as well. It has proven popular in the vineyard for a number of reasons. First, it does well in heat and under drought conditions, which while generally a good thing, can be an extremely attractive quality in countries or regions where irrigation is not permitted or practical, and goes some way to explain why it is also cultivated in North Africa and Lebanon. Second, it can produce generous yields of both big bunches and big berries, though there is obviously a trade-off to be maintained between yields and quality.
Outside of the Mediterranean, Cinsault is best known to students of wine as a parent of Pinotage in South Africa, where it was known confusingly as Hermitage. It was the most widely planted red grape there for decades, only dropping out of the top spot in the 1990s, but not widely appreciated. There are some plantings of the grape in the USA, particularly on the West Coast in California and Washington, and while not wildly popular within Australia, it is a part of some well respected red blends from Barossa and McLaren Vale.
This is the first wine on this site from Rutherglen. Being based in South Australia, there’s certainly a local bias against wines from interstate in terms of availability, but Rutherglen has an international reputation and featured prominently in the WSET Diploma, albeit within the section for fortified wine. Rutherglen is in Victoria, north east of Melbourne, nestled against the border with New South Wales. It’s a historic region, with a wine industry that dates back to the first half of the 19th century. The climate is continental with hot summer days but cold nights. Broadly speaking, there are two main soil types, with a stretch of loam across lower hill slopes being favoured for the production of fortified wines and more widespread sandy soils in which grapes for table wine are grown. The fortified wines of Rutherglen deserve their own article, so I will save discussion of them for when I have one in front of me. The table wines though are typically big and red, with Shiraz, Durif and Cabernet Sauvignon being most widely planted for table wines. Muscat and Muscadelle are widely planted for fortified wines.
Morris Wines was established in 1859 by George Francis Morris and he grew it to over 200 acres by 1885, making it the largest wine producer in the Southern Hemisphere. However, the region as a whole was hit hard by phylloxera near the turn of the century, resulting in a great downturn and in the sale of the business in 1917. However, the family remains involved in the operation to this day and the fifth generation, though the company is currently owned by Pernod Ricard Australia.
The company is best known, as is typical of the region, for its fortified wines. Morris produces over a dozen though I hesitate to list them all as they have names like Vintage Port, Fino, Amontillado and Tokay which are in a state of flux (it’s complicated) and will wait until I’m covering Rutherglen fortified wines. However, they do produce table wines of the big three red grapes, Shiraz, Durif and Cabernet Sauvignon, in addition to this Cinsaut, as well as a Chardonnay and a sparkling Shiraz / Durif blend.
In the glass this wine is clear and bright with a medium plus ruby colour and slow, thick legs. On the nose it’s clean and developing with medium intensity and notes of black cherry, plums, cranberries, and some sweet spice. On the palate it’s dry with medium plus acidity, medium fine tannins, medium body, medium plus alcohol, medium plus intensity and a medium plus length. There are notes of plum, cranberries, black cherries, and a hint of liquorice.
I rate this wine as a solid good. It had a strong fruit profile as befits a young red, and while it is fruit driven, it’s not just a bland collection of simple red fruit – the flavours are fairly distinct and complex. It has more intensity on the palate than the nose, and the acidity keeps it fresh. As this is my first varietal Cinsaut, I can’t say much about typicity, but it certainly hasn’t put me off the grape. I’ll continue to be on the lookout for Cinsaut, even if I only find it in blends.