Birichino Wines / Cinsault
Bechthold Vineyard, California 2018
GRAPES: Cinsault (sin-SO)
So rarely seen on its own, Cinsault is one of the dozen or so Rhône varieties that are generally blended into anonymity. As the 10th most planted grape in France though, it does occasionally make a name for itself in beautiful, structured rosés, and, well, according to the master Jancis Robinson… “flirtatious reds.” Cinsault is a heat-loving, drought-bearing vine with lovely floral aromatics and strawberry fruit qualities all packed tight with high acid… a knock-out candidate for California viticulture’s future, and as seen here, its deep past.
WINEMAKERS: John Locke and Alex Krause are the “naughty” boys behind Birichino (well, “naughty” in Italian, at least) an outfit that self-describes their approach as striving for “perfume, poise, and puckishness.” We do so love alliteration. The Birichino boys are of the lucky few to work with the historic Bechthold vineyard (BECK-told) which reigns supreme as the premier source of Cinsault in California, and for good reason. These ancient own-rooted vines were planted in 1886, making them the oldest known Cinsault planting in the world. Planted by a gold prospector, Joseph Spenker, these legacy vines are found in the outer reaches of Lodi in the Mokelumne River area, which differentiates itself from other fairly lack-luster Lodi zones, thanks to the cooling effects of the foothills and decomposed granite soils. Birichino makes a playful vin gris of Cinsault, as well as this carbonic maceration red, in an effort to emulate the pop and circumstance of the upper-classman of Cru Beaujo.
TASTING NOTES: This acts like an old school Beaujolais with a vibrancy and California earth-quakey depth. Bright and brimming with tart Rainier cherries, newly ripe strawberries and raspberries. The ripeness of the red fruits is plenty rounded, but not at all a super-saturated wine. It finishes with enough of a lean profile that gives it a nervy edge. It is easy going down, but not at all simple. It’s Cinsault with a California attitude. With insanely old vines such as these, that complex and layered tension is everything you could ever hope for from such an agricultural legacy.