30 June 2014

WOTM - Niel Joubert 2011

My Wine of the Month for June is Niel Joubert Estate Pinotage 2011, WO Paarl.
On the last weekend of the month we were on the south-east coast to walk the coastal path from Ramsgate to Margate.
I was delighted to find this quality Pinotage on the list of the Minster Tandoori Indian restaurant in that small country village.
It was a hot day but the wine was correctly served cool which allowed the wine’s crisp spiciness to shine.  There’s some oak in the background giving structure and over time some smokiness – a hint of barbeque charcoal – which ideally matched the tandoori grilled meat.
This delicious fruity spicy wine with a smoky oak twist is a worthy WOTM.

25 June 2014

Pinotage in Michigan

3 North Vines is a new estate near Lexington, Michigan which has planted two varieties new to the region. One of these is Pinotage which in 2009 they first to plant  in Michigan and 2011 saw their first Pinotage vintage.

Owner Nate Shopbell tells me that he fell in love with Pinotage after visiting Kanonkop Estate and many others when he visited South Africa in 2006.

"We have been growing about an acre of Pinotage which we had grafted ourselves onto rootstock that we planted in 2009," he says.  "We have been really happy with our wine quality from our two harvests so far of those vines.  This past winter was a particularly harsh one for the Midwest and unfortunately I have a fair amount of loss both from Crown Gall and winter cold damage."


31 May 2014

WoTM - Beeslaar Pinotage 2012

Abrie Beeslaar is winemaker at Kanonkop. Since taking up duties in 2002 he has seen that range expand with the barrel selection ‘black label’ estate Pinotage, and red and rosé Kadette Pinotages, and won the International Winemaker of the Year Trophy for 2008 at the International Wine and Spirits Competition.

My Wine of the Month for May is the first vintage from Abrie's private venture. Beeslaar 2012 Pinotage is from a single Stellenbosch vineyard. Only 4,700 bottles were produced, around 16 barrels.

Dense intense red with bright edges and softy scented with blackberries. First impression in mouth is of creamy smooth softness, then plum flavours backed with a savouriness on the palate finishing with a dusting of coffee.

This is a gorgeous wine now, but although the label says it’s best to drink from 2014 I think it’d benefit from keeping longer. It’s not yet been in bottle for a year and I think with a little more time the oak effects of 17 months in 50/50 first and second fill would make way to reveal more fruit.

Beeslaar Pinotage 2012 is available in the UK and Hongkong from importer Vincisive Wines Ltd, www.vincisive.co.uk www.vincisive.com.hk

Beeslaar Pinotage 2012
WO Stellenbosch
Alcohol: 14.5
Residual Sugar: 1.29
pH: 3.65
Total Acidity: 5.66
Total Sulphites: 95mg/L

Thanks to Darren Brogden of Vincisive for the sample.

30 May 2014

Pinotage Retrospective 1966 - 2012

Wines of South Africa held a tasting yesterday focusing on Chenin and Pinotage. Greg Sherwood MW tutored us on nine excellent Chenins before handing over to  Gavin Patterson who is the winemaker at, and director of, Sumaridge Wines in Walker Bay.
Gavin Patterson

Gavin told us he first planted Pinotage 25 years ago in his native Zimbabwe and his 1994 vintage was voted best wine at a tasting in South Africa attended by Beyers Truter. He said that when training as a winemaker he was taught that the taste profile of Pinotage then was acetone, prunes and leather. Overextraction doesn’t suit Pinotage, and winemakers are now making very different Pinotages. It is a variety, says Gavin, that is very stable in barrel and very ageworthy. We were about to prove that second statement.

The wines:
1.       Diemersdal Pinotage, 1998
ABV: 13.6%
Blend: 100% Pinotage
Region: Durbanville
Winemaker: Thys Louw
From 22 year old (in 1998) dry-farmed vines. Served from a decanter this was dry and dusty, still tight, but full bodied and dark fruited.

2.       Kanonkop Pinotage, 1999
ABV: 13.5%
Blend: 100% Pinotage
Region: Simonsberg – Stellenbosch
Winemaker: Beyers Truter

 From bush vines then 54 years old, this was gorgeously soft with sweet fruit. I loved this when I first tasted it in 2000 and every subsequent time it has just got better and better.

3.       Kanonkop Pinotage, 2003
ABV: 14.5%
Blend: 100% Pinotage
Region: Simonsberg – Stellenbosch
Winemaker: Abrie Beeslar

Change of winemaker and the vines are four years older, this is silky and spicy but maybe a bit less voluptuous than the 99 it's a crackingly enjoyable wine.

4.       Simonsig Pinotage, 2003
ABV: 14.8%
Blend: 100% Pinotage
Region: Stellenbosch
Winemaker: Johan Malan

A surprise for me because this is Simonsig’s unwooded Pinotage, though some tasters thought it had seen oak. It is a beautiful wine; soft, sweet raspberry and berry fruits. An elegant wine.

5.       Beyerskloof Pinotage Reserve, 2006
ABV: 14.6%
Blend: 100% Pinotage
Region: Stellenbosch
Winemaker: Anri Truter

A wine I have bought a lot of. Mellowing now, light bodied, sweet and elegant with a long finish. Almost a feminine wine, if one can believe that of Pinotage. 
6.       Neethlingshof Pinotage, 2006
ABV: 14.4%
Blend: 100% Pinotage
Region: Stellenbosch
Winemaker: De Wet Viljoen
Feremnted in rototanks with 14 months aging in 43% new French (80%) and American (20%) oak barrels.
A chunky wine with grainy tannins and chewy fruit. Very much a masculine Pinotage to contrast with the previous.

7.       L’Avenir Pinotage, 2011
ABV: 14%
Blend: 100% Pinotage
Region: Stellenbosch
Winemaker: Dirk Coetzee

Clean fresh spicy fruit; well integrated oak tannins, delicious.

8.       Altydgedacht  Pinotage, 2011
ABV: 14.7%
Blend: 100% Pinotage
Region: Durbanville
Winemaker: Etienne Louw

Four days cold soak to encourage gentle extraction of fruit flavours then fermented in closed tanks with pump-over. Aged 14 months in 40% new American (80%) and French (20%) oak barrels for 10 months.
Clean, refreshing and very elegant. Minerally with spicy black cherry fruits. Lovely wine.

9.       Lyngrove Platinum Pinotage, 2012
ABV: 14.5%
Blend: 100% Pinotage
Region: Stellenbosch
Winemaker: Danielle le Roux

 Barrel selection, cold soaked and aged 15 months in 40% new French oak barrels. Deliciously silky smooth with a tangy finish.

10.     Sumaridge Epitome, 2009
ABV: 14.1%
Blend: 57% Shiraz, 43% Pinotage
Region: Walker Bay
Winemaker: Gavin Patterson

 This is Gavin’s own wine. Sumaridge don’t  nowcmake a Pinotage varietal. This Cape blend was a winner in the 2013 Cape Blend competition and as part of his prize Gavin is soon heading off to visit winemakers in Portugal’s Douro where he is intending exploring their indigenous varieties.

Barrel selection, aged 12 months in 50% ch oak  500L and 225L barrels. “I’m making a Cape blend with a Rhone element – the Shiraz brings its pepperyness to the blend.”
Powerful tasting wine, but quite restrained flavours as if the two strong tasting varieties cancelled each other out.

Then came a surprise. Two old wines, Meerendal 1982 and Stellenbosch Farmers Winery ‘Lanzerac’ 1966…..

Meerendal 1982 tasted meaty and of forest floor, like dried meats on a bed of mushrooms.

SFW ‘Lanzerac’ 1966. This is only the seventh ever vintage of a Pinotage varietal, the first ever commercial bottling being the 1959 vintage released under the Lanzerac brand in 1961. They were intended for immediate drinking, not for keeping. The cork in this bottle had guarded its contents for almost half a century and did not want to surrender its contents, but finally it was defeated and the wine poured into a decanter and served. A light brown colour, this 48 year old wine was surprisingly fresh, with fine sweet berry fruits and a good body. It was quite delicious. 

Thanks to WoSA, the Pinotage Association for supplying the wines, Gavin Patterson for telling us about them and High Timber South African restaurant on the banks of the Thames for hosting the tasting and making us so very welcome.

 I learned that when dining at High Timber one doesn’t choose wine from a list; instead you descend to their cellar to choose from 32,000 mostly South African bottles including an exclusive bottling of the FMC Chenin. FMC is their best selling RSA white (Chateau d’Yquem is their best selling French wine!) while Newton Johnson Pinot Noir is their best selling RSA red wine.



30 April 2014

WOTM - Le Vin de Francois 2010

My wine on the month for April is Le Vin de Francois 2010 that I had several times when lunching at Delheim Winery  during my recent stay in the Cape.

It's the wine of Francois Naude, made from barrels he's selected from seven top Pnotage wineries to blend together into a superb example of Pinotage.

Francois Naude made his name at L'Avenir Estate. While her he won the Pinotage Top 10 Competition more times than anyone else.

His retirement didn't last long: soon he was consulting at wineries and then creating his own wine from the best barrels he encountered. The wine is sold at an annual auction. The only other way to get hold of a bottle is from a reseller and Delheim -- which regularly supply barrels -- had a few bottles for sale in their tasting room which I was delighted to buy.

The label might not be informative, but the bottle comes wrapped in an A3 sheet of paper, see below, which details this wine and the various wines and wineries that supplied the barrels.

Informative wrapper around bottle
This wine is 100% Pinotage, a blend of  two barrels from  Beyerskloof (winemaker Anri Truter), Kanonkop (Abrie Beeslaar ), Lanzerac (Wynand Lategan), and one each from Delheim (Brenda van Niekerk), L'Avenir (Tinus Els), Simonsig (Johan Malan), and Wildekrans ( William Wilkinson). Widekrans is in Bot River, the others are Stellenbosch. 
I love Francois' wines, he is a consummate master of Pinotage and this wine is a revelation. It was probably not doing it justice to drink it so young, but I couldn't resist, and I couldn't take them all home. Paired with Delheim's Garden Restaurant Cape Malay curry this wine danced on my tongue. There's so much depth of flavour with dark plums to the fore and a long lingering finish. Gorgeous stuff. Not cheap, but worth every penny.

04 April 2014

All Change at L'Avenir

It’s all change at L’Avenir. The dark brown labels with African pictographs which were introduced in 1995 have been replaced with a clean modern-looking label which is an updating of L’Avenir’s original label showing rows of vines leading to the winery.

The new labels cover three tiers of wine. The entry level wines under the ‘Far & Near’ branding are priced at the cellar door from 50-55 Rand and use grapes sourced from outside the farm.

The top two ranges once again are ‘Estate’ Wine of Origin.

The mid-range wines are priced from 90-120 Rand. The premium range are registered Single Vineyards, and priced at R180 for the Single Block Chenin Blanc 2012 and R300 for the Single Block Pinotage 2012.

These bottles are individually numbered and signed by wine maker Dirk Coetzee. In another acknowledgement of the past, the bottles are dedicated to Francois Naudé, Lavenir’s winemaker and viticulturist from its beginning until his retirement after the estate was purchased by the French wine company Laroche.

The estate vineyards have produced exceptional wines over the years — at the time of his retirement Francois Naudé had won the Pinotage Top 10 Competition more times than anyone else — and it is good to have the Estate certification to again confirm the source of the wine.

Even better for those who like to drink a wine with a sense of place and terroir is the single vineyard registration of these blocks. Their labels are based on a satellite image of the vineyard with the named block highlighted in gold.

The Estate Pinotage 2012 is wonderfully exciting now, lively and giving real pleasure. It’s a wine that made me stop and say ‘wow’. Could keep but I’m enjoying it too much to wait.
Block 02 Pinotage 2012 is a taut, powerful, intense yet restrained wine. I’m keeping mine for a several years because I think this is going to develop into a real humdinger.

31 March 2014

WOTM - Spier 21 Gables 2011

My Wine of the Month for March is Spier 21 Gables 2011

Having tasted quite a lot, but never enough, Pinotages in the past three weeks here in the Cape I’ve found it really difficult to pick a wine of the month this time. So many stand out, so many have been delicious and  enjoyable.

But a decision had to be made and by a whisker Spier’s premium 21 Gables’ 2011 is my choice.

I enjoyed it with lunch at the wine farm’s ‘Eight’ restaurant – a farm to table operation where the menu changes from day to day according to what the farmers bring in from the fields.

We had an excellent waitron and were impressed that the Pinotage was served chilled.

This is a very modern style of Pinotage, restrained and elegant but with oodles of fruit underneath. Four and a half stars in Platter and worthy of five. I’d have bought a case there and then if I could carry them home with me.  160 Rand at the cellar door.
According to the fact sheet on Spier's web site, the 2011 Pinotage's

Grapes were hand harvested to minimize damage to the berries. Grapes were chilled before bunch sorting. After de-stemming, the berries were sorted by hand to remove raisins, pink berries and large berries. Cold soaking preceded temperature-controlled fermentation in stainless steel tanks and open-top French oak vats. Free run wine was drained to a combination of 1st and 2nd fill barrels and matured for 18 months

Congrats to Frans Smit and his team!