Cinsaut for Climate Change


Commissioned to write 1500 words on “global warming and the SA wine industry. How rising temperatures have affected wines and farming methods locally and what will it bring further” my thoughts have been somewhat focussed of late.

Although writing from a cold and rainy Cape Town, it’s hard to believe in global warming – especially when Peter Lilley writes in the Spectator that global temperatures are not increasing. “There is a legitimate argument that the world should phase out fossil fuels to minimise global warming. The power of that argument has weakened recently. Global temperatures have failed to rise for 16 years.”

Marketing meltdowns in Franschhoek and science aside, there is certainly a perception that the mercury is climbing. Jancis Robinson, to wine what Nana Mouskouri is to Greek music, opined on the weekend that “wine is one of the most sensitive measures of climate change” and that change is up when you read about increasing quality of English wine and those from Canada.

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So what should SA producers do to prepare themselves for hotter vineyards? Change to Cinsaut, the workhorse grape from the South of France, perhaps. Krige Visser, the savviest marketer in the business, came down from Mount Abora yesterday and dropped off a bottle of Saffraan (above) and emailed:

“Saffraan, Afrikaanse for saffron, that very expensive spice, is meant to be the Swartland’s answer to Pinot Noir. Or rather, we wanted to make the Pinot Noir of the Swartland with Cinsault. The wine as well as the label is a tribute to the 1960’s and 70’s, when the sun was still innocent, hot only meant higher temperatures, “cool” was never spoken of, the sky was always as blue as our label and Cinsault was as Chevy as Cabernet.

The days when the workhorse grape variety was covertly paraded in KWV’s and Laborie’s old-clone Cabs or flogged as horses named Tassies and Chateau Libertas. At 12% alcohol. And a fine combination of acid and tannins to carry the sweet cherry Pinot flavours. Retail price is R100.”

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Speaking of the old wines beloved by Krige, Roeland Liquors is a veritable museum to ancient cuvees similar to the ones Nederburg lavished on British blogger Jamie Goode in the Tabernacle at Distell when he was in town recently not choosing Pinotage for the Nederburg Auction. Let’s hope Jamie will not hold the sins of child Pinotage against parent Cinsaut, but Saffraan should tickle his jingoistic nerve as he’s been known to refer to South Africans as “Saffers”. There is also food available (below) for a Tabernacle in Town tasting. What about it, Nederburg?

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Cinsault from the wrong side of the mountain is the secret ingredient in Wynand Grobler’s succulent Foundation Stone 2011. Wynie reports “the Cinsault is from Breedekloof – almost 600m above sea level, vines were grafted in late 90’s onto old root stocks… I agree that it’s a winner, the 2012 blend for now is looking like it will probably have more than the current 19%!”

Speaking of winners, this wine is one is certainly one and at R85 – the same price as the 2009 vintage – good value too.