31 March 2015

WoTM -Warwick Three Cape Ladies 2009

My Wine of the Month for March is Warwick’s ‘Three Cape Ladies’ 2009. This is a Cape Blend, a wine where South Africa’s Pinotage shares space with international varieties, here Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz.

Having spent last week in Bordeaux drinking blends of varying proportions of Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Cabernet Franc, Malbec and Petite Verdot I found The Cape Ladies most impressive, lacking the leanness of Bordeaux.

2009 vintage was exceptionally good in the Cape; this wine is lush and ripe, well balanced with that seam of sweetness that Pinotage adds to blends. This 2009 is fully mature with its colour darkening but maybe that’s because I didn’t keep this bottle in cool enough conditions.

Ah, the blend…. The rear label lists Pinotage, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon without giving proportions. Warwick’s website has been redesigned and regrettably no longer carries fact sheets on past vintages. An online search is no help; different merchants list different constituents and proportions that often don’t total 100%.

As always,  I want a time machine so I can go back and buy more of this delicious wine.

15 March 2015

L'Avenir Opens Exclusive Pinotage Lounge

L’Avenir Estate has  opened South Africa’s first lounge dedicated exclusively to Pinotage, located in the heart of the functioning cellar on the estate. 

The L’Avenir PINOTAGE LOUNGE invites enthusiasts of the variety to experience exclusive tastings hosted by the winemaker, Dirk Coetzee. Not only can the space be booked for intimate events & corporate functions, but offers the opportunity to taste & purchase rare older vintages dating back to the 1970’s.

The lounge was officially launched on Thursday, 5 March. The evening began with tastings of the latest vintage of L’Avenir’s Single Block Pinotage 2013 out of barrel, the latest vintage under Dirk Coetzee, moving to the current release Single Block 2012 and ending with a selection of previous winemaker, Francois Naude’s favourite rare vintages. 

Francois Naude, winemaker at L’Avenir for 13 years from 1992 until 2005, is recognized as one of the original pioneers of Pinotage in South Africa and relished the opportunity to share his experience with the variety.

L’Avenir Single Block Pinotage is made from a selected parcel of cultivated bush vines from what is known as Block 2 on the farm. This block is made up of vines ranging in age from 15 to 30 years old and has consistently produced exceptional quality fruit which, up until 2012, had been used in red blends. In 2012, it was decided to bottle the block as a single varietal, vinified to showcase the finest traits of the variety.

The L’Avenir Pinotage Lounge is open during tasting room operating hours and for private functions. Bookings are essential.

Source: wine.co.za

28 February 2015

WoTM _ Rijk's Private Cellar 2008 Pinotage

My Wine of The Month for February is Rijk’s Private Cellar 2008 Pinotage. Rijk’s – pronounced ‘rakes’ – was created by the Dorrington family in the Tulbagh valley and named in honour of Rijk Tulbagh, governor of the Cape from 1751 to 1771, who gave his name to the town and valley. Rijk’s wines achieved almost instant success from their first bottling in 2000.

This grapes for this wine were handpicked at night at the beginning of February, then underwent 48 hours cold maceration at 10° C, prior to fermentation and underwent malolactic fermentation in barrel where it was allowed to mature for 20 months in 60% French and 40% American oak barrels,  50% new, 40% 2nd fill and 10% 3rd. It was bottled in September 2010 and released in March 2012 after 18 months bottle aging.

The wine is a beautiful bright cherry red colour. It’s tight in the mouth, but opens up with time. Rijk’s website recommends the wine be decanted for 1 hour before consumption. This is good advice, which I wish I’d had taken. It’s a powerful and elegant wine, with restrained fruit flavours and a structural tannin core. I don’t think I’ve ever had a Rijk’s wine that didn’t delight, and the only disappointment with this wine is that this was my last bottle of this vintage.

This wine was a Pinotage Top 10 winner in 2012, and won  Pinotage Trophies at Michelangelo,  Old Mutual, and International Wine & Spirits Competitions 

26 February 2015

House of Ball joins the Pinotage Family

While in New Zealand I heard a whisper of an estate called House of Ball growing Pinotage to use in blends, but found their  website showed they also made a 100% Pinotage. 

House of Ball is in the Waipara Valley north of Christchurch. As we were spending our last few days in Christchurch before flying home, and our route south from the Marlborough wine region would take us close-by, we decided to pay a visit. 

Armed with the address and Google maps we easily found their road leading out of Waipara, but after a while the tarmac ended and we were on dirt and gravel. Then the road divided – we took the one that was slightly larger and continued up the side of the valley. There were no signs and the road got narrower, then it divided again. We could see no sign of vines or building and so I called their number but got an answerphone. So we found a place to turn and headed onto Christchurch.

From our hotel I emailed the winery asking if I could buy a bottle of their Pinotage and have it couriered to our hotel before we departed. “Yes,” came the answer and, even better, owners Lynda and Julian Ball would deliver the wine personally.
Lynda and Julian Ball
The Balls run a boutique B&B alongside their vineyard and guests receive detailed  instructions on how to find the property, and they’re not open to casual visitors, which is why there were no signs but it turned out that we were quite close.

The estate covers 80 acres with two acres planted from 2004 with small quantities of seven different varieties. Pinot Noir, Riesling, Gruner Veltliner, Pinotage, Gewurztraminer, Chardonnay & Tempranillo.  There are 350 Pinotage vines out of a total of 3,000.
House of Ball Pinotage Vines
“So why Pinotage?” I asked. Because Lynda had previously worked as Vineyard Manager for Muddy Water on the opposite side of the valley where she cared for their Pinotage block planted in 1993.

Lynda and Julian do all the work in the vineyard and winery themselves. “We make wine in our garage the old fashioned way and we don’t like to get into science,” says Lynda. “We let grapes get to around 26 Brix, start picking at dawn and stop at 10am before it gets too hot. We take off stalks, let grapes sit cold for a week then we stomp them with our feet and put in a large plastic fermenter. We let it sit for a week after fermenting then age in a new French oak barrel for eight months. We make Pinotage like Pinot Noir.”
Pinotage vines at House of Ball
Lynda and Julian brought a bottle of 2011 Pinotage. There was no 2012 as they’d not been travelling in Europe. “2013 crop was made as a rosé (“Rosé is very popular”) as was 2014 (“There was too much rain”)

House of Ball 2011 Pinotage was one of a handful of wines I carried home to England.

This Pinotage is clear bright red, with an attractive nose and clean berry fruit flavours of plum and blackberry with a good finish. A really nice drinkable wine whose 14.5% abv is not obvious. House of Ball is a most welcome addition to the Pinotage family.

House of Ball   
Pinotage 2011
14.5% abv
NZD$35.00 at the cellar door

Photograph of Lynda & Julian Ball by Peter F May. All other images copyright  of House of Ball. Used with permission.

11 February 2015

Pinotage Comes of Age

Pinotage Comes of Age, states The Wine Society. "Pinotage is a Cape calling card reinvented for today’s more demanding palate. It now comes in a multitude of styles and the best examples, from a range of climates, are fine, ageworthy reds".

And so the Society has decided it's time to include a Pinotage catagory in their Fine Wine List. 

The initial six are:
  •  Chamonix Greywacke Pinotage, Franschhoek 2011
  •  Beaumont Pinotage, Bot River 2013 
  • Neil Ellis Vineyard Selection Pinotage, Jonkershoek 2010
  • Radford Dale Frankenstein Pinotage, Stellenbosch 2013
  • Kanonkop Estate Pinotage, Stellenbosch 2011
  • Rijk's Reserve Pinotage, Tulbagh 2009 
The Wine Society has also added a Pinotage to their premium 'Exhibition' own label range. The Exhibition 2013 Pinotage is produced by Kanonkop and I suspect it's a re-badged 'Kadette' Pinotage.

The Wine Society, founded in 1874, is the world's oldest wine club and is a mutual society solely owned by its members.

31 January 2015

WoTM - Loma Prieta 'Bodo's Blend' 2012

My Wine of The Month for January is Loma Prieta 'Bodo's Blend' Pinotage 2012 from California. I've been looking forward to drinking this since November 2014 when I was in Concord, North Carolina attending the American Wine Society Conference awards dinner  and was surprised and delighted to see it win the 'Best Red Wine' trophy.

It's clear to see what seduced the judges. 

There's a perfumed inviting nose. In the mouth you get sweet dense berry fruits rich with tantalising 'garrigue' wild herb flavours. This wine is irresistible!!

Although the label just states Pinotage the name 'Bodo's Blend' prompted me to ask Loma Prieta owner/winemaker Paul Kemp to explain. "Bodo is the person on our label," replied Paul.  "A medieval magician. This wine is about 20% Petite Sirah from Amorosa Vineyard and 80% Karma Pinotage.  They are both 2012 and from Lodi."

WoTM - Marsden Estate Pinotage 2013

My Wine of the Month for January is Marsden Estate Pinotage 2013 made by Rod McIvor at his winery in the Bay of Islands at the north-east of New Zealand’s North Island.

Enjoying Marsden 'Bay of islands' Pinotage overlooking the Bay
Rod also makes wines for other vineyards, including Pinotage grown by Waitapu Estate, the most northerly vineyard in New Zealand.

Marsden Estate, founded in 1993 by Rod and Cindy McIvor,  takes its name from Samuel Marsden who came to New Zealand as an Anglican missionary and planted the first vineyard on the coast nearby.

We enjoyed Marsden Estate 2013 Pinotage first at the excellent restaurant under a canopy of vines overlooking a lake and vineyard, run by Cindy McIvor and we bought bottles to take away.
We had an escort on our walk along  Pinotage rows

A walk along Marsden’s 250 Pinotage vines showed healthy growth this year with ample bunches of small green berries.

“2013 was a great vintage,” Rod told me. “Everything was late and they cropped heavily, in contrast to 2012 which we didn’t pick.” 

Marsden Estate 2013 Pinotage has a sweet raspberry nose and soft gentle fruit flavours. There are soft tannins, though the wine spent 10 months in oak. The wine feels light bodied yet has 14% abv. It is closed with a DIAM cork. Later, in our apartment overlooking the Bay of Islands, we found it to be an excellent partner to take-away pizzas.

Marsden Estate
Pinotage 2013
Bay of Islands
Northland, New Zealand
14% abv
$32 NZD

Marsden Estate's vineyards