Also spelled 'Cinsaut', Cinsault is a red wine grape variety that is prevalent throughout southern France where it is the dominant grape variety. It is planted widely throughout the Languedoc, Ardèche, Corsica and southern Rhône. Its most acclaimed role is that of a filling agent among the thirteen grape varieties permitted in the blend of red Châteauneuf du Pape. It is seldom rendered as a straight varietal expression aside from its starring role in many rosés.
Cinsault is also grown extensively throughout Lebanon, Morocco and Algeria, where it arrived via trade routes and those well trodden by the Pieds-Noirs. Cinsault's chief role in many of these regions is one of stretching volumes and providing soft fruit flavours, not without their charms and commercial viability. Once, its role was more clandestine; inadvertently adding weight to mainland French table wines including top Burgundy, with which it was blended.
Today Cinsault is largely blended with the likes of Grenache, Syrah, Carignan and Mourvedre. It adds suppleness and perfume for eminent drinkability and pleasure, especially when yields are kept below 40hl/ha. Cinsault provides a caress of fruit to tame Carignan's fierce acidity and ropey tannins, for example.
While Cinsault is fecund and prone to rot, it is also drought resistant and thus well suited to the Mediterranean and other semi-arid climates, including Australia where old vine patches are still found, and South Africa. There, Cinsault was the most widely planted grape variety until the 1960's. It was crossed with Pinot Noir to become Pinotage, South Africa's 'own' grape variety. Ironically, Pinotage is now a more respected grape variety than Cinsault.