When Larry Schaffer of Tercero oh so kindly sent me a few bottles to sample, he included this varietal that I admittedly have only heard of by name. Never having studied the grape let alone taste it’s fermented juices, I honestly didn’t know what to expect. I, of course, sought the guidance of the winemaker (Larry) when planning my first Cinsault encounter — and then just dove right in.
I present to you, Baby Briscoe’s first Cinsault…
About the Wine: According to Larry, the 2015 Cinsault was one of his first “different style” red wines, as this typically vibrant varietal is often blended with Grenache and/or Carignan to help smooth and soften both flavor and palate. But Larry wanted to highlight that vibrancy, that innate lightness and brightness that comes with a 100% bottling. Of course working with something different means doing something different with it. So, Larry adds, “I normally store my reds in older French oak for 28-34 months, but in this case, that wine only saw 10 months. I felt it was necessary to give it less time because of the aromatics it possesses.”
The Tercero 2015 Cinsault is made from 100% Cinsault grapes harvested from Camp 4 Vineyards in Santa Ynez, Santa Barbara. The grapes were foot stomped (by Larry) then 100% whole cluster fermented. The wine was aged in seasoned French oak barrels for 10 months.
Flavor Profile: I will preface this section with a bit of a note. Larry suggests either serving this wine chilled or at room temperature. I opted for the latter, as a fellow wine friend of mine who’s familiar with Larry’s wines suggested opening his reds half an hour to an hour before pouring, just to give the wine time to adjust to room temp, get some air, and all that good stuff. I have to agree. For me, this wine in particular was perfect at room temperature. So, if in a standard wine cellar (which is around 55 degrees Fahrenheit), pull it out, unscrew the top, and just let it stand upright for at least 30 minutes (absolutely NO need to decant here).
Now, once the wine is poured…
Can I say that red wine pours clear, clean, and fresh like water? That’s how it looked as the wine went from bottle to glass. But once in the glass, though the wine is predominantly a light reddish-pinkish hue, there’s an underlining of soft, dustiness in the coloration. The smell, is so fruit forward. And obvious fruits, too. Think cranberries, pomegranate, and good old-fashioned red grapes. Swirl, sniff again. Move your nose around the glass. There’s something else going on there — something deeper or darker, something you may not be able to put your finger one. So, no choice, but to dive in and taste.
“Holy heck that’s earthy!” That’s literally what my first tasting note says. Yes, it’s undeniably fruit forward, but because the wine is actually quite low in acid, the overall fruitiness is a calm, thirst-quenching one. The secondary palate is as if that dustiness in the visual is now a taste. I keep using the word dusty because it’s not earthy as I know it — not a soil, a forest floor, neither muddy nor beachy. It’s as if you’re walking the streets of a ghost town in an old western film — there’s just a single gust of wind, enough to kick up the dirt from the floor and oh-so subtly cloud your vision. It’s a unique sense of earth that I don’t believe I’ve experienced in a single-varietal bottling before.
Now, if you let the wine sit and settle on the tongue and take a few deep breaths, it is then that you’ll get that roundness, that softness, that comes with the oak-barrel aging. But it’s very slight — as Larry intended because, let’s face it, that’s not the nature of the grape or the terroir. I believe he made the right call here — masking those aromas and flavors in a blanket of oak would just be a travesty.
Food Pairing: Being a Cinsault novice, I turned to Larry for some expert winemaker advice regarding what kind of food to pair with my bottle. Duck. He said duck. In fact, I think he said it a couple of times (on separate occasions), so it stuck with me. Duck.
Ok, when I open the Cinsault, I’ll be eating duck.
And so I did. And folks, he was right. But here’s my note to you — keep it simple. My partner in wine crime and I decided to opt for duck breast, pan-fried and finished in the oven. Just enough salt and oil to get the skin crispy and just enough time in the oven to ensure the duck is cooked (read: med-rare finish). For a side, we wanted to keep things easy, so I prepared my favorite duck accompaniment — my French-Fusion Rice Pilaf. Lastly, I feel like duck without orange is just a loss, so I prepared an orange-citrus vinaigrette, tossed it with some micro greens and used that for the garnish.
Was it the perfect pairing? Yes, Larry, you were right. Because of the bright — but suprisingly low-acid — nature of the wine, those dominant fruits did well to cut through the innate meatiness that is duck breast. Furthermore the, somewhat, gaminess of the bird along with the earthy aromatics in the rice pilaf helped amplify those subtle — but undeniable — earthy notes in the wine. Lastly, because the wine is so low in acid, that vinaigrette gave the overall meal the “kick” it needed.
I could also see this wine pairing well with a pork dish and maybe even a lamb if prepared right. But my one other note about prepping food to pair with any of Larry’s wines is — be a little lazy. I don’t mean this in a bad way, and I don’t mean don’t give the meal thought. What I mean is think of your star protein (duck, pork, lamb) and think about the simplest way you can prepare it that’s still enjoyable to your palate. Same with the sides and any garnish — let the actual ingredients stand on their own. Because that’s what Tercero wines does: let the grapes do all the talking.
More Info: If you haven’t yet read my review for Tercero Wines Grenache Blanc, definitely do.
I received Tercero Wines 2015 Cinsaut as a sample for review (thanks Larry!). To find out more about Tercero Wines, Larry, and of course to purchase wines directly, please visit the Tercero Wines website.
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