2017 Chris Alheit ‘Flotsam & Jetsam’ Stalwart Cinsault W.O. Western Cape
Most people don’t really associate the Cinsault grape with South Africa, but it has historically been the most planted red grape in the country. Originally imported in the late nineteenth century from France’s Rhone Valley, it was much valued for its ability to withstand South Africa’s torrid climate and thoroughly inhospitable growing conditions. Though it was famously crossed with Pinot Noir in 1925 to create the Pinotage hybrid in a (misguided) attempt to add some elegance to its often earthy personality, good ol’ Cinsault remains, to this day, a South African original.
Modern viticulture and more creative approaches in the cellar have served to tame the grape’s tendency towards rusticity, and artful blending with grapes like Shiraz, Grenache and Mourvedre, can add nuance and depth when it comes to creating the Rhone-style blends for which South Africa is now best known. But, in its purest form, and handled with sensitivity, Cinsault can make a pretty delicious wine all on its own. Take Chris and Suzaan Alheit’s version. Chris, a member of the young, envelope-pushing Eben Sadie, Adi Badenhorst group, has earned an amazing worldwide reputation for his amazing whites, but says of his only red, ‘Flotsam and Jetsam is a simple wine made from fantastic vineyards.’ He’s very much right. Except that, though the winemaking itself is deceptively simple, the wine is actually anything but. He sources his Cinsault from 40+ year old dry-farmed bush vines in Darling, in the Western Cape, and doesn’t embellish it with a lot of manipulation or wood in the cellar.
In fact, this extremely tasty, eminently quaffable red weighs in only at a modest 12.5% alcohol! But don’t confuse its lack of alcohol or winemaking bells and whistles for a lack of flavor! We were very impressed, not only with not its vibrant, effusive personality but its depth too. Bright and zesty, its very ample bouquet brings forth lifted aromas of olive tapenade, hard cherry candy, dried raspberry and finished with a nice hit of white pepper. Made for every day drinking and ultimate food-friendliness, you’ll find guzzling down a bottle of this in your backyard alongside a plate of ribs, some grilled chicken or a platter of burgers, a very, very easy task and two bottles a distinct possibility.
Absolutely yummy! (And we love the penguin on the label)