12 September 2014

Notes from Toronto International Pinotage Tasting

Ontario was enjoying a heat wave during my time there, and I’d taken cold weather gear. 

Toronto’s South African Wine Society organised a unique tasting of 13 Pinotages from five countries plus three US states. It had taken six years to gather them all and on Tuesday 26 August 2014 a keen group of members and interested guests gathered tfor a tutored tasting in the splendid Wedgwood Blue Room in the Toronto University Faculty Club, a 1920’s ivy-covered mansion towered over by the recent modern architecture of university buildings.
Faculty Club

Tasters in the Wedgwood Blue Room (photo by Eleanor Cosman) 

Speaker in full flow (photo by Eleanor Cosman)

I was presenting the tasting and unable to take notes so I am indebted to committee member Jon Whitteker for permission to use his.

Topper’s Mountain 2010 wild ferment – Australia / New England NSW  (non grafted vines, 7 years)

—good initial impression, excellent fruit flavours, med. depth & length, plum & red fruit / held up well over 1-2 hours / very good on its own and with food.

Melrose Vineyards 2009 – USA / Oregon  (planted 2005)

—lighter style, short finish, easy drinking but lacking interest.

Barkan Reserve 2010 – Israel / Judean Hills  (8 year vines / started planting in 1995)

—good darker fruit flavours / medium finish / different, non typical flavour profile / pleasant but not compelling.

Lake Breeze Seven Poplars 2010 – Canada / B.C.  (14 years)

—forward, open bouquet / excellent black fruit / impressive with a solid backbone, very good depth and length / a serious wine that will improve with age / goes very well with food.

Stoneboat 2010 – Canada / B.C.  (12 years)

—similar in structure to the Lake Breeze but not the same weight / very good fruit, good length / very good with food.

Lovingston 2011 – USA / Virginia  (vineyard planted in 2008)

—good open nose, very good fruit, different flavour profile but very drinkable

Fort Ross 2007 – USA / California  (root stock imported in 1995)

 . good nose, excellent fruit, very good length and balance / sweeter initial impression which moderated over time / developed more flavour complexity as time progressed / silky tannins in the finish.

J Vineyards Estate RRV 2010 – USA / California (vines from 1994 and 2001)

—very good fruit / more Pinot Noir like initially on the palate / very good length / sweeter initial impression which moderated over time / developed more flavour complexity as time progressed / silky tannins in the finish.

Loma Prieta Winery 2012 - Estate Vineyard, Santa Cruz Mtns (California) … (Second vintage)

—good fruit, sweeter entry, medium-light length, smooth, very pleasant / sweeter initial impression which moderated over time / developed more flavour complexity as time progressed / silky tannins in the finish.

Soljans 2011 – New Zealand / Gisborne

—lighter appearance but abundant strawberry fruit / good length and finish, very drinkable

Muddy Water 2011 – New Zealand / Waipara  (non grafted vines, 18 years)

 —excellent, dark fruit, has good balance and length / has depth & complexity to develop further with time / soft but noticeable tannins enhanced the overall impression.

Black Elephant The Back Roads 2012 – South Africa / Wellington  (old vine, single vineyard)

 —dark, rich fruit / excellent depth and length / lots of potential for the long haul / pronounced but pleasant tannins indicate it age very well and further develop / very impressive.

Swartland  Bush Vine 2010 – South Africa / Swartland  (bush vine blocks, 15 – 37 years)

good fruit, medium length, pleasant, not overly complex, enjoyable but not compelling.


Wine was served in 1.25oz (37ml) pours in ISO glasses. Wine was opened and poured 1 to 1½  hours before tasting. Wine was re-tasted up to 2 hours after the initial tasting. Food was served halfway through the tasting and again after the last wine was initially tasted.

After the tasting I spent time in Ontario's wine region to visit wineries and to taste their wines.

I sent my last  day in Ontario as a guest of Peter Laidlaw who farms Fieldmouse Vineyards near Jordan Village, featured on page 183 of my book PINOTAGE. 

Peter planted an experimental row of Pinotage in 2001 and on my last visit in 2006 we harvested the first vintage. Tragedy struck shortly afterwards with the sudden illness and later death of Peter's wife Susan. The vineyards suffered lack of attention aas a result, and no more Pinotage has yet been planted.

I am glad to say I found Peter in good cheer. He has remarried and is very happy. We sat at a table placed among the vines drinking a bottle of Fieldmouse Pinotage (not commercially released) and devouring a delicious Vietnamese feast prepared by Chi Laidlaw and her mother.

08 September 2014

Cape Blend Competition 2014 - Winners

 The winners of the Perold Absa Cape Blend Competition were announced on Friday 5 September 2014 at the Taj Hotel, in Cape Town by De Wet Viljoen, Deputy Chairman of the Pinotage Association.

A total of 41 wines from 33 producers were entered.

The five winning Cape Blends and their components are:
  • Blake’s Amethyst (Shiraz, Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon)
  • Clos Malverne Spirit of Malverne (Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon, Shiraz)
  • Kaapzicht Steytler Vision (Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage, Merlot)
  • Painted Wolf Peloton Rouge (Pinotage, Shiraz, Merlot, Grenache, Mourvèdre)
  • Rhebokskloof The Rhebok Cape Blend (Shiraz, Mourvèdre, Pinotage)

The five other finalists in this year’s Perold Absa Cape Blend Competition were:
  • Bottega Family Wines Idiom C 2010
  • KWV Abraham Perold Tributum 2012
  • Spier Wines Creative Block 8 2012
  • Wildekrans Cape Blend Barrel Select Reserve 2012
  • Windmeul Cape Blend Reserve 2013

“The exciting thing about the Cape Blend wine category - besides it being uniquely South African - is the diversity if offers,” said Beyers Truter, Chaiiman of The Pinotage Association. “Apart from the borders drawn by the prescribed Pinotage component, the winemaker basically has a clean slate with which to work, causing a category that is as diverse as it is innovative.

Some wines use Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon for a more traditional, Old World Pinotage complement, while the Rhône varieties bring a New World juicy plushness. You must just know, if you do not find a Cape Blend that fits your palate, you are probably not a red wine drinker!”

According to Craig Bond, Chief Executive of Business and Retail Banking at Barclays Africa, Pinotage and the Cape Blend category of wines are truly unique jewels in the crown that is the South African wine industry. “This partnership reflects our long-standing commitment not only to the Pinotage Association but to the South African wine industry as a whole. Our corporate philosophy is strongly centred around ideas, innovation and creativity, and the Cape Blend winemakers reflect these values with their dynamic and passionate search for wines that have an own identity, are creatively put together and reflect the excellence of Brand South Africa, of which we as a bank are proud to be a part of." 
From left to right: Andries Blake (Blakes), Danie Steytler (Kaapzicht), Jeremy Borg (Painted Wolf), Suzanne Coetzee (Clos Malverne), Rolanie Lotz (Rheboksloof). 
Congrats to all.

31 August 2014

WoTM -Stoneboat Pinotage 2008

Beautiful dark bright red colour. First impression is of a luscious silky mouthfeel. This wine is rich, plumptious and spicy. There’s also mulberry with a hint of coffee in the background. A delicious flavoursome wine.

This wine comes from vines growing on their own roots in the sandy desert soils of the Okanagan Valley, British Columbia.

I brought this wine back from my visit to Stoneboat in 2011. To see my report and vineyard videos with the owners see here

 (BTW – take a close look at the bottom of the labels to see the dangers in cutting corners by editing a label from another wine.)

18 August 2014

Pinotage Top 10 2014 Winners

The winners of the ABSA Pinotage Top 10 2014 Competition were announced at a luncheon at Landtscap venue in Stellenbosch on 15 Aug 2014.

They are:

Allée Bleue - 2012  Pinotage
Bellingham  - 2013 The Bernard Series Bush Vine Pinotage
Beyerskloof - 2011 Diesel Pinotage
Delheim - 2012 Vera Cruz Estate Pinotage
Diemersdal Landgoed - 2013  Pinotage Reserve
Rijk's Cellars - 2010 Reserve Pinotage
Simonsig Estate - 2012 Redhill Pinotage
Spier -2012 21 Gables Pinotage
Wildekrans Wine Estate - 2012  Pinotage Barrel Select Reserve
Windmeul Kelder - 2013  Pinotage Reserve

A list packed with solid Pinotage producers with excellent track records. Congratulations to all!

17 August 2014

International Pinotage Tasting - Toronto 26 August 2014

The South African Wine Society of Toronto, Canada, is holding a 'one-of-a-kind' Pinotage tasting on Tuesday 26 August 2014.

I'll be there, and we'll be pouring Pinotages from South Africa, New Zealand, California, Oregon Virginia, Canada,  Israel and Australia.

For details of the event, list of wines and booking form go to http://www.southafricanwinesociety.ca

Hope to see you there!

13 August 2014

Cape Blend 2014 Finalists

Just announced are the 10 finalists for the 2014 annual ABSA Cape Blend Competition.

2011 Blake's Amethyst
2012 Clos Malverne Spirit of Malverne Limited Release
2010 Idiom C
2010 Kaapzicht Steytler Vision Cape Blend
2012 KWV Abraham Perold Tributum
2009 Painted Wolf Peloton Rouge
2012 Rhebokskloof The Rhebok Cape Blend Limited Edition
2012 Spier Creative Block 8
2012 Wildekrans Cape Blend Barrel Select Reserve
2013 Windmeul Cape Blend Reserve

Exciting  mix of previous winners and newcomers!

Congrats to all for getting to the finals.


05 August 2014

First German Pinotage

Germany has long been said to grow Pinotage, but extensive research for my 2009 book proved to my satisfaction that there was none outside nurseries.

But there is now. In 2008 Stefan Bietighöfer planted about a quarter hectare of Pinotage and added a further 0.65 ha in 2012.

Winemaker Stefan Dorst had been impressed by a bottle of Bietighöfer’s Pinot Noir but was astonished when he learned he’d planted Pinotage. “Who needs Pinotage from the Palatinate? No man!” was his initial response.

  Dorst had worked in South Africa and had fifteen years making Pinotage at Laibach Estate. Now back in Germany with his own négociant business, Dorst was the obvious man to turn Bietighöfer’s grapes into wine.

“The Pinotage grape is a diva who wants to be vinified correctly, then and only then it shows the outstanding qualities of the mother variety Pinot Noir”, says Dorst. “Pinotage grows well here on a limey, sandy loam soil in one of the warmer areas of German wine regions.”

Their first vintage was 2010 and the next won 2nd place at Vinum Red Wine Award in the category “new breeds” for Dorst & Bietighöf. They annually produce about 1,000 bottles.

Wine and food blogger Martin Zwick has tasted two vintages:

2011 Dorst & Bietighöfer Pinotage
The yield is very low at 25 hl / ha. This gives the grapes a high concentration of aromas. The grapes were harvested in late October and initially macerated cold for 24 hours to obtain maximum extraction of colour and tannins. After the fermentation started on the skins 30 to 32 ° C. Once the wine an alcohol level of 10% vol. pressed and completes the alcoholic fermentation in stainless steel tanks. Here it passes through a portion of malolactic fermentation, and is completed in new French oak barrels and then aged for 12 months in 225 litre French oak barrels. On 14 November 2012, the wine was bottled unfiltered, protecting its rich fruit and intense, natural varietal character.
This Pinotage has class. It is many years since I have had such a good Pinotage in the glass and I would say that only a few representatives from South Africa can compete with this. Impressively juicy and velvety fruit of blackberries, black currants, plums, spices and dark chocolate. Displays the balance and structure of a great wine and you can tell that Mr Dorst is familiar with the grape Pinotage for many years.

2012 Dorst & Bietighöfer Pinotage
In this Pinotage from the Palatinate we have, as it were, the best of both worlds: the spice and power of Cinsaut and the finesse and charming awareness of Pinot Noir. Beguiling perfume with a velvety and silky texture. Cherry, plum, spices and very Burgundian in the finish. Beautifully fresh on the palate and never rustic or alcoholic. Belongs definitely to the red wine elite in Germany. 
Thanks to Martin for permission to quote from his posts on the German Wine Forum and blog. The above has been translated thanks to Google and the original German text can be read at Dasweinforum.de and his Berlinkitchen33 blog