Whether you know it or not, many of southern France’s most prized wines are made with the essential grape Cinsault. With unmistakable floral and spice flavors, this workhorse of a wine has discreetly made its way into many of the best wines of France.
In this guide, we’ll take a deep dive into Cinsault wine, its growing regions, tasting notes, serving recommendations, and of course, plenty of food pairings.
Characteristics of Cinsault Wine
Cinsault is a dry red wine originating in France, where it can also be spelled cinsaut. It grows primarily in southern France and is most well known as a blending grape in Rhône Valley red wines and as the leading grape in Provencal rosé.
In addition, Cinsault can also be found in South Africa, where it is (confusingly) called Hermitage. When crossed with Pinot Noir, the two grapes make the South African grape known as Pinotage.
Cinsault Tasting Notes
Cinsault is a dry red wine that is medium-light in body, low in tannins, with medium acidity and low-medium alcohol (usually around 11-13%).
Cinsault is rarely seen on its own unless as a rosé due to its low tannins and delicate flavor profile. Cinsault adds spicy, floral, red cherry, and subtle smoky flavor when blended. Its addition softens otherwise bold and alcoholic red blends and makes it more suitable for early drinking.
The most common grapes blended with Cinsault include other southern France natives such as Grenache, Syrah, Mourvedre, and Carignan, to name a few.
As a rosé, Cinsault can be found on its own though it is usually found along with other grapes, including Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre.
Provencal rosé is widely known as one of the best styles of rosé in the world. These wines are wonderfully refreshing, bright, and lively, exuding flavors of strawberry, watermelon, cherry, and roses. There’s also a noticeable minerality that makes these rosés perfect for pairing with seafood and a variety of other dishes.
How to Serve
Cinsault as a red blend is best served at room temperature (60- 68F) in a Bordeaux glass or one with a wide bowl that allows flavors and aromas to concentrate in the glass.
Decanting for at least 30 minutes is recommended, as these red blends tend to develop deep, complex flavors that unravel as the wine sits.
Rosé versions are best served slightly chilled, around 62- 68F in a standard white wine glass. Decanting is not necessary for these rosé wines as they are enjoyed young.
Notable Regions for Cinsault
The Rhône Valley of southern France is, undoubtedly, one of France’s premier growing regions. Known for making exceptional, bold, inky, and richly flavored red blends, Cinsault plays a key role in the southern Rhône Valley. Northern Rhône remains dominated by the Syrah grape, the only red grape permitted.
Within the southern Rhône are several smaller subregions, most notably Châteauneuf-du-Pape, which makes highly regulated and world-famous red and white blends. These red blends are known for having bold flavors of raspberry, black currant, forest floor, and leather.
Up to 13 grapes can be used in Châteauneuf-du-Pape, though Cinsault is a ubiquitous addition alongside Grenache, Syrah, and Mourvedre. Cinsault adds delicacy, spicy, and floral notes of violets, white pepper, and red cherry, which helps to soften these bold red blends.
Located in the far southeastern corner of France, bordering the Mediterranean, Provence is a region equally known for its delicious seafood and refreshing rosé.
Part of the success of Provencal rosé comes from its relentless heat and sunshine. This, along with the temperate Mediterranean ocean breeze, makes for ripe grapes with a noticeable minerality.
Cinsault is one of many grapes made into both red and rosé blends alongside Cabernet, Grenache, and Syrah, plus other lesser-known grapes like Braquet and Folle Noire.
Rosés made from Cinsault are crisp, refreshing, and rich with summertime fruit flavors of strawberry, red cherry, and melon.
Languedoc-Roussillon is a somewhat lesser-known wine-growing region in southern France, though a century ago, it was responsible for almost half of France’s wine production. Today, this region produces delicious wines at excellent value.
Languedoc-Roussillon is France’s largest wine-growing region and makes both dry and sparkling white wines, including some of the best Crémant in France, Crémant de Limoux.
As for the red wines, Cinsault is used as a workhorse grape to produce cheap and consistent red table blends and rosés. It’s most commonly blended with Cabernet, Grenache, Merlot, and Syrah, to name a few.
Red blends from this region are rich with flavors of spices, red fruit, and dried herbs. Rosé wines from this region are similar to Provence, with notes of minerality and bright red fruit.
As mentioned above, Cinsault in South Africa is known as Hermitage. When crossed with Pinot Noir, you get the popular regional grape Pinotage. Pinotage is commonly found both as a single varietal and a key player in the Cape Blend, alongside Cabernet and or Merlot.
Cinsault began as a blending grape used to offset the cost of producing Cabernet and Merlot. That said, the addition of Cinsault has become popular and is still added in small amounts to impart red fruit and white pepper flavors.
Cinsault Food Pairings
Cinsault is a versatile red grape that can equally make bright and refreshing rosé as it can bold and complicated red blends. This makes it a perfect food pairing wine for countless dishes.
Rosé made with Cinsault is ideal for pairing with lightly-flavored dishes, including cream sauces, seafood, lean proteins, and crisp veggies. Consider trying one of these rosés with our Salmon en Papillote or Braised Chicken Thighs.
Red blends made with Cinsault are ideal for rich and hearty dishes, including barbeque, grilled meat, roasts, mushrooms, and herbaceous dishes. You might like to pair one of these red blends with our Steak Salad Recipe or Smoked St Louis Ribs.
As for Cinsault as a single varietal, if you can find one, then consider yourself lucky. Cinsault on its own makes for a richly flavored and delicately spiced red wine that’s perfect for pairing with roasted veggies, salty cheeses, and spiced cuisines such as Thai curries and Moroccan tagine. Try it with our Shrimp In Coconut Curry!