I looked at a bottle of South African red in Corks of Cotham recently. The region of production, the Natte Valley, and the producer, Milner Brothers, were both new to me. I thought about putting it back on the shelf and choosing something else but was intrigued that the only named variety on the label was Cinsault. It’s a grape that’s rarely vinified alone; it’s far more commonly found as part of the blend in some of those lovely, warming southern French reds such as Fitou and Minervois. So, despite knowing little about it and the price – not cheap at £18, I decided to give it a try. I’m pleased I did.
A note on the back label recommended decanting – the wine had been neither fined nor filtered (2 processes often carried out in the winery that remove any small, but harmless, particles remaining from the fermentation) and so there would be sediment in the bottle.
On pouring, I noticed that the colour wasn’t particularly deep but the nose was delightfully savoury and full of attractive dried fig aromas. On the palate, the wine was medium-bodied (based on the likes of Fitou I was expecting it to be a little fuller), with appealing bright cherry fruit, quite restrained tannins and a long, spicy finish. Definitely a food wine – a good steak or venison would match perfectly.
Although native to the south of France, Cinsault has a long history of being grown in South Africa, dating back to the mid-19th century and, in fact is one of the parents of South Africa’s ‘own’ grape variety, Pinotage, (the other being Pinot Noir), which was developed there in the 1920s.
And what of the Natte Valley? This well-kept secret (from UK customers at least) is right at the heart of some of South Africa’s prime vineyard territory just a few miles north of Stellenbosch.
It’s certainly a name to note.