It’s been said that Cinsault is the best cultivar at expressing terroir and winemaker Alex Milner first discovered it during a harvest in Provence, despite it once being South Africa’s most widely planted varietal. The majority of what he was harvesting was destined to become rosé but this encounter planted the seed for what would become his Cinsault Collective, the same grape grown in four different regions from old vines, each beautifully expressing its own unique terroir.
Alex’s wines have just been scored with great enthusiasm as part of Jancis Robinson’s South African Collection 2019. You can read the full notes below which were prepared by Tamlyn Currin, an invaluable member of Jancis’ team. You’ll see from Tamlyn’s delightfully insightful tasting notes that the wines really do expressive unique characteristics depending on the terroir, despite all being produced from the same variety of grape.
Natte Valleij, Cinsault 2017 Darling 18 out of 20
13.5% £17.99 Drink 2019-25
Smoky nose, a touch of rubber – as with all Alex Milner’s Cinsaults, decant for several hours beforehand. Glowing cherry roundness and sweetness, a ripeness and gentle plumpness which can’t be found on his Cinsaults from Swartland, Simonsberg or Stellenbosch. Which is not to say that this is voluptuous by South African standards. It has a floating burgundian elegance – in fact so Pinot Noir-like that I’d love to throw this into a blind tasting. The almost invisible tannins define the fruit but are so much part of it that it’s as if they’ve been etched into it with a diamond tip. The Darling Cinsault, more than the others, has seam of graphite steeliness, a frisson of petrichor minerality that pulls the wine in tight towards its centre and long determined focus to the end. Stunning. Very Good Value(TC)
Natte Valleij, Cinsault 2017 Swartland 18 out of 20
12.5% £17.99 Drink 2019-23
Decant – a bit raw on the nose to begin with but it does blow off. And when it does, it smells of roses after a storm, tea leaves spilt on a dry dirt floor. In the mouth it seems to want to fly, filling the nose from the inside with night-petal scent and white pepper, silvery redcurrant fruit brushed with eucalyptus mintiness. Tannins so fine there’s no grain, tied lightly round the wine like a silk scarf. Bacon sweetness and saltiness, but with edges, as if the redcurrant sharpness has been honed into blades. Finishes like an arrow. Good Value(TC)
Natte Valleij, Cinsault 2017 Simonsberg Paarl – 17.5 out of 20
13.5% £17.99 Drink 2019-25
Proper, bloody Cinsault nose with a swirl of rooibos tea. Red chilli and cinnamon bark and dark chocolate flavours in paper-thin slices, as prosciutto di Parma comes, rather than a solid block of flavour. Dancer fine, despite the 13.5%, and it’s dancing in chamois-leather-tannin boots. Really soars on the finish, filling the air like a steeping, steaming cup of gunpowder-jasmine tea. Good Value(TC)
Natte Valleij, Cinsault 2017 Stellenbosch 17.5 out of 20
12% £17.99 Drink 2019-24
Like its stablemates, needs decanting to get rid of the initial Cinsault whiffiness, and like its stablemates, once that goes, it is a revelation. Hibiscus, pomegranate, evening roses – smells deeper and more spicy than the Natte Valleij Swartland Cinsault, although with a similar fingerprint. Sharper, bonier, yet somehow with more intensity, as though it was burning up on the inside with a brilliant tension. Full of refracted light – tasting this is like standing on the inside of a ruby. Fragrant right through as if the spine of the wine was carved from rose petals and mica. Long and piercingly fresh. Good Value(TC)
Fancy trying them all? Order a mixed case here