Cinsaut is a high-yielding, early-ripening, hot-weather red grape, generally used in blends. It tends to be low in tannin, and is often added to blends to add a spicy component. Cinsaut is not often found as a varietal bottling. Among the grape’s claim to fame is being half the genetic cross (along with pinot noir) behind the South African Pinotage grape..
Under the right conditions of mature vines, restricted yields and careful winemaking, Carignan can make a decent wine and add flavour, colour and tannin to blends.
Grenache is probably the most widely planted red grape. It has a tendency towards high sugar/alcohol levels, if not planted in the right areas or cropped back. It needs sandy, devigorated soil where it can produce exquisite, luscious wines. The quality of Grenache wine soars when it’s dry-farmed and severely pruned to concentrate its colour and flavours.
Originating from the Spanish town of Murviedro, near Valencia, Mourvèdre was brought to Provence in the late Middle Ages. Mourvèdre is notable in France as the prime ingredient in the red and rose wines of Bandol. Mourvèdre is a late-ripening varietal and produces sturdy wines with good acid and some astringency, and can develop enticing blackberry aromas and flavours. The skin is particularly high in antioxidants, which allows Mourvèdre-based wines to age well, despite their relatively supple tannins. Although it is increasingly bottled as a single varietal, the intense animal quality of Mourvèdre is often improved by the warmth and fruit of Grenache and the structure, spice and tannin of Syrah. Mourvèdre-based wines pair well with flavours, such as grilled meats and dark fowl, which harmonise with the earthiness of the wine.
Syrah or Shiraz:
In both the vineyard and the winery, Syrah is an easy grape to work with: healthy, early-ripening, resistant to mildew and rot, and suitable for winemaking in a variety of styles. It works well either as a single varietal or in complex blends; in the Northern Rhône it is the basis of the great reds; while as an ingredient it contributes much of the character and ageing potential for wines of the Southern Rhône.Syrah's characteristic flavours have been described as dark fruits, sometimes smoke, meat (particularly bacon), leather and a white pepper finish. Cooler regions seem to bring out black pepper, green olive and spice aromas while warmer regions have more pronounced raspberry, cherry and earthy notes. With its complexity, depth and spice, it is as versatile a “food wine” as any red wine can be.
Clairette Blanche provides the base for white blends in the Southern Rhône and Languedoc. Its low acidity, high alcohol, and floral perfume make it an ideal blending grape, most often used with Grenache Blanc and Ugni Blanc. In addition to plantings in France, the varietal is also grown in South Africa and Australia.
Grenache Blanc is the white equivalent of Grenache Noir. It is drought-resistant, vigorous, and easy to graft. Originating in Spain, where it still plays a role in the wines of Rioja and Navarre, it thrives in the French vineyards of the Rhône valley and Châteauneuf-du-Pape. It is the fourth most commonly planted white grape varietal in France. Its high-sugar, high-acid, straw-coloured bunches produce wines with a high alcohol content, while its crisp, long finish makes it a good blending component.
Viognier is the world’s least widely planted premium grape – but one of the most prized. In the vineyard, yields and acid levels tend to be low, and in the winery, it is temperamental. But once in the bottle, a well-made Viognier comes with a deep, yellow colour and an exquisite, exotic bouquet. In the Northern Rhône, Viognier is the basis of the wines of Condrieu and Chateau-Grillet. Viognier can be rich, full-bodied and lush with distinctive aromas of peaches, apricots, orange blossoms and honeysuckle.