17 February 2017

Pinotage is Changing - Roger Jones

'Bananas, chocolate box, rubber, fruit bombs, nail polish …. forget these descriptions, Pinotage is changing and there is a shining light coming from some Cape winemakers presenting a wine that is altogether more attractive, pure, precise and perfectly balanced.'

Michelin-starred chef Roger Jones travelled to South Africa to find top quality Pinotage  that would sit happily on wine lists in the UK.
Roger Jones
Roger Jones
In his article for premium on-trade magazine The Buyer he reviews wines from Rijks, Spienkop, Spier, Simonsig, Flagstone, Beeslaar, Kanonkop, Southern Right and Groot Constantia and tastes a 1969 Lanzerac.

The article is here.


11 February 2017

Lodi, California, Pinotage

Lodi Winegrape Commission have a couple of stories on Lodi Pinotage.

One features Loma Prieta in Santa Cruz, America's largest producer of Pinotage wines who use  fruit sourced from Lodi -- see here.

And the other is about the Mettler Family who farm 4 acres of Pinotage that makes its way to Loma Prieta, as well as making some under their own label. See here.


08 February 2017

Pinotage Vinegar

I am indebted to Jon Clements over at PinotageUS.com for the news that a specialist company in Pennsylvania are now producing a Pinotage vinegar.
Image courtesy of

Supreme Vinegar LLC in Bensalem, PA  makes niche vinegars  without added sugar, chemicals, or additives  combining old techniques and modern chemistry in order to ensure the quality of the final product.

Reginald Smith, President and founder of Supreme Vinegar LLC told me:

"Right now I use only South African Pinotage wines, buying retail/wholesale by the case until I can see if the market justifies importing bulk amounts.

One case of 750 mL bottles can get me almost 6 cases of 250mL bottles of wine vinegar. I primarily use Nederburg, the most common available here in Pennsylvania, but there are some others I might add to the mix."

He'd be interested to hear of any boxed/bulk Pinotage available in the US.

Jon Clements says

"After contrasting the Pinotage Red Wine Vinegar with the regular Red Wine Vinegar the Pinotage flavors really stood out."

Read Jon's full review in his article here.


31 January 2017

WoTM Vin de Francois 2007

My Wine of the Month for January 2017 is Vin de Francois 2007.
Francois Naude

2007 was the first vintage made by Pinotage (& Chenin) guru Francois Naude under his own label. Working as a consultant after retiring from L'Avenir Francois buys barrels of the best wines from wineries he's been working with in order to blend them into a premium Pinotage, although no variety name appears on the labels. 

The wine is sold in an original manner, at an annual auction over dinner at a secret location. It's so secret that Francois himself doesn't know where the car that takes guests and him to the dinner is going. The inaugrual auction was held at the Observatory in Cape Town with food by Chef Bruce Robertson. Each subsquent auction has been at a different venue.

The events were organised by Francois' wife and after her sad demise their daughter Melissa is in charge.

Seven barrels for this 2007 vintage came from Delheim, Hartenberg, Lanzerac (2 barrels), L' Avenir (2 barrels) and Neil Ellis, all located in the Stellenbosch appellation.

On opening the cork was dry and broke and the plug left in the bottle crumbled, eventually falling into the wine.

This was a perfect, gorgeous wine, but starting to show signs of age. I do not doubt itwill keep for longer but if I had more bottles (which I don't) I'd open them sooner rather than later to get the fruity flavours while they are still there.

Francois told me "bottle differences will become more evident and although some will age even further, it is a good time to start enjoying them now; rather sooner than later.

A fact sheet for this wine is here.

27 January 2017

Kanonkop 1995 elected to Decanter Hall of Fame

Decanter Magazine has named Kanonkop Estate Pinotage 1995  a 'wine legend' and elected it to its Hall of Fame!

see http://www.decanter.com/learn/kanonkop-pinotage-1995-353255/

31 December 2016

WoTM KWV Classic Collection Pinotage 2015

My Wine of the Month for December 2016 is KWV ‘Classic Collection’ Pinotage 2015

KWV have been making excellent wines in recent years, the Mentors range in particular, and their exceptional Cape Blend Abraham Perold Tributum’.

The Classic Collection is, I believe, their entry level label. But the Pinotage doesn’t disappoint.

It’s bright in the glass with medium colour. Made in a modern style, clean as a whistle with fresh spicy fruit flavours and very drinkable. An everyday Pinotage at a very competitive price. Closed with cork.

(I’m a bit puzzled by the assertion on the front label that ‘Western Cape is one of the top wine producing regions in South Africa’.: surely it is, without doubt, the top, with only minimal amounts of wine grown outside.)

15 December 2016

Oak Mountain Winery, Temecula Valley, California

Oak Mountain Winery grows and makes Pinotage in California’s Temecula Valley.

I was last in Temecula in 2002 and there’s been a lot of development and new wineries since then, with around forty-eight now in the valley. Temecula is roughly midway between southern Los Angeles and San Diego, just off  interstate highway 15.

Oak Mountain opened in 2005. They grow an interesting selection of varieties, mostly Mediterranean and the one that most interested me – Pinotage.
The original Estate Pinotage vineyard
The original Pinotage vineyard of about .7 acres runs up the hill from the entrance, but such is demand that they have just grafted over an  acre of Counoise vines to Pinotage. Seems South African ex-pats buy it the entire output of Pinotage the moment it’s released to hoard and age it.
The new Pinotage vineyard that used to  be Counoise.
Temecula Valley is about 22 miles from the coast and sea breezes roll in through the ‘Rainbow Gap’ in coastal mountains between 16:30 and 17:00 to cool these desert vineyards at around 200ft above sea level. 

Oak Mountain vineyards are irrigated – these are desert conditions – but they stop irrigation after véraison to stress the vines.

Harvest takes place at night time to gather grapes when cool and all grapes go to a sorting table.
Oak Mountain winery building
Oak Mountain Pinotage spends 18 months in a mix of 60 gallon (225 litre) barrels, then is blended in tank before bottling. It’s usually released a month after bottling.

I tasted the Oak Mountain Estate Temecula Valley Pinotage 2013. There were fresh berry flavours leading into a dense restrained full bodied wine. I think it needs ore time and I'll be saving thehbottle I bought to bring home

Oak Mountain are the only winery in Temecula to have an underground cellar. They bored into the hillside behind the winery for almost 6 months, stopping only when they hit sand. The cave covers 10,000 feet and later surveys have shown they could double it. 
Part of Oak Mountain Cave

The original intention was as a barrel aging cellar but they get 5-600 visitors every weekend and also rent out the cellar for weddings and functions so the cellar is more profitable as an event space and thus most barrels are aged at Temecula Hills winery which is under the same ownership. 
Boardroom in the Cave used for wine tastings for those on the Cave tour
The Cave Tour at  $30 takes you into the cellar and  includes a tutored tasting around the large table in the impressive board room in the cellar, but it includes an extended sales pitch for their wine club.

New Pinotage growth in the recently grafted vineyard