Carstens Cinsault 2016, Coastal South Africa
This wine ticks all my favorite boxes. The grapes are from 40yr old ‘bush’ vines, sustainably farmed without irrigation. Wine making is just as cool. 50% whole cluster fermented using indigenous yeast to 12.5% and aged 9m in big old ‘neutral’ 5000L French oak foudres. It speaks honestly of its grape and where it was grown.
Most importantly, it was ethically farmed ‘Certified Fair Labor Practice’, which means black farm workers get their fair shake of wages, conditions and benefits.
Offering up juicy, punchy blackfruit characters (on the wilder, brambly side of mulberry & blueberry), but tempered by an intriguing savory depth to keep things interesting. It's grown close enough to the Atlantic Ocean to balance fruit sweetness with just enough natural acidity.
Pieter Carstens is the winemaker for Leeuwenkuil Family Vineyards – established 1693! (http://www.leeuwenkuilfv.co.za/) – which is the source of his fruit and presumably where he makes his own brand. His other varietal wines are probably worth exploring and I reckon I’d also like LFW’s wines as well.
I visited Swartland a few years back and loved it. Not as grand as Stellenbosch or Franchoek, its more about down to earth farmers graced with an abundance of old vine vineyards.
If you don’t know Cinsault this is a good introduction. Native to Southern France, Cinsault is both aromatic and naturally low in tannins, so makes for a great, easy glugger. If you like Pinot, Grenache or Gamay it’s probably your kind of wine. Sidebar: In 1925 Cinsault was crossed with pinot noir to create South Africa’s signature red, Pinotage.
I liked this Cinsault a lot. Sadly it was my last of 6 bottles, all of which showed steady evolution over the last year. So it goes.
South Africa has been making wine for over 300 years. These were very traditionally, indeed naturally, made using a grape perfectly suited to its climates. Post-Apartheid, some producers there went a bit New World crazy with exaggerated styles following market fads. More recently many have returned to their roots, doing what SA does best, especially with old vine Chenin Blanc and bush vine reds.
A final thought. The industry, of late, has suffered from Covid very badly and quite unfairly for many reasons. If you can’t find Carstens wines, try another South African wine. I’ve found most consistently over deliver on quality, and interest, for the price.
Most especially, seek out wines with the ‘CFLP’ label Carstens wears. Goodness always follows.