Alicante Bouschet and Cinsaut at Virgin Wines

Less popular or once decried grape varieties are making a bit of a comeback in the Languedoc, and well done Virgin Wines for picking up on that.

I’ve just enjoyed a bottle of Alicante Bouschet, Escura des Pins, Pays de l’Herault 2013, for £9.99.   It has quite a deep young colour, with some ripe cherry fruit on the nose, and more ripe supple fruit on the palate.  Quite fleshy with some soft tannins, making for easy drinking, but with some depth and length.  A modest 12⁰.   Alicante Bouschet was a grape variety that was definitely frowned upon for contributing to the European wine lake.  .  It produced high yields of thin flavoured wine, and as a teinturier variety it performed the useful function of boosting the colour of high yield anaemic varieties.  There is not much of it left around, but this really shows that when vinified correctly, without an excessive yield, it can make a really nice glass of wine.

Cinsaut tends to be used for rosé wine, but increasingly is making some very appealing red wines.  It features in Gavin Crisfield’s La Traversée along with some Syrah, Carignan and Grenache Noir, but the fragrant perfume of the wine very much comes from the Cinsaut component.  The 2012 vintage at £24.99 has  quite a deep young colour, with fragrant fruit on the nose, and on the palate some ripe very fruit, with balancing acidity and tannin.  The alcohol reaches 14 but the wine tastes much lighter and is in perfect balance.  The vineyards are in the high hills of the cooler Terrasses du Larzac and Gavin’s small cellar is well off the beaten track in the tiny hamlet of les Salses.   Ca vaut le voyage.   


charlie said…
Did you think La Traversée was worth £25?
Good question. I agree that it is expensive for the Languedoc. but ..... There is a tendency to think that the Languedoc ought to be cheap and cheerful but I think the Languedoc is justified in raising the bar when the wine is as good as this - and also the quantity that Gavin produces is tiny. It has also been rated one of the top wines in a Revue de Vins de France tasting.
There are remnant patches of Alicante Bouschet around Northern California's wine regions ... I occasionally find it (rarely as a solo varietal, more frequently as a minor component in a blend) in wines from Sonoma & the Sierra Foothills, and it's no doubt found in older vineyards elsewhere. In my limited experience with it as a solo or dominant varietal (and this a number of years ago), it makes for a much fuller, almost heady wine than you encountered in your tasting. As with so many other underappreciated varietals in our older vineyards, it's for the most part long since been removed and replaced with one or another Grape of the Decade -- chardonnay, merlot, syrah have all had their day in vineyards where mataro, alicante, petite sirah, charbono once grew. I very much miss the affordable field blends from Napa and Sonoma that made youthful penury in the Bay Area survivable in the '60s and '70s.
Jonathan - that is fascinating. I would never have associated california with Alicante Bouschet- it is sad that so many grape varieties have disappeared.

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