30 November 2016

WoTM Bellingham Pinotage 2014

My wine of the Month for November  2016 is Bellingham ‘Homestead Series’  Pinotage 2014

It may be a step below the Bernard Series Bush Vine, but this ‘Homestead Series’ Pinotage is serious. It’s just appeared on the shelves of Tesco’s at a £10 price point and it doesn’t disappoint,

There’s a gorgeous sweet compote berry smell on opening and it has a bright dark colour in the glass. It’s tight in the glass, slowly releasing complex berry fruit flavours with underscoring whiffs of tobacco. It was aged 11 months in 2nd and 3rd fill French oak barrels, and tannins are subtle.

It’s Wine of Origin Stellenbosch and the grapes were sourced from mountain vineyards above 200 metres.

!4% abv and bottled at the winery, closed with an agglomerate cork.

We drank it on the last day of the month to celebrate the opening today of our road fourteen months after a sinkhole closed it.

Pinotage for Your Next Wine

Nice article by the Chicago Tribune's Michael Austin titled For your next bottle of wine, try a Pinotage.

"When pinotage is good, it can offer a wild array of aromas and flavors, from raspberry, strawberry and cherry to plum, vanilla and coffee, with herbs, minerality, earth, spice, mushrooms, marshmallows and grill smoke also in the mix. Some pinotage bottlings send forth aggressive tannins, while others verge on silky. And colors range from deep crimson to see-your-fingers-through-it pink-ish." 
He encourages readers to give the variety a chance, remarking that it has had detractors in the past, and that there are different styles and varying prices of Pinotage wine.

Austin reviews nine different South African Pinotage varietals from Fairvalley, Ken Forrester, Backsberg, Lammershoek, Warwick Estate, Beaumont, Simonsig, Bosman Family Vineyards and Kanonkop Estate, priced from $11 to $42.

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22 November 2016

Beyers Truter Brings Pinotage to Bordeaux

Sunday: To La Cité du Vin in Bordeaux for a Pinotage masterclass presented by Beyers Truter, owner and cellar master of Beyerskloof and Chairman of The Pinotage Association.
La Cité du Vin, Bordeaux

La Cité du Vin’s curving glass, silver and gold metallic structure is meant to symbolise wine swirling in a glass, the sinuous knots of  vine stock and the eddies of the River Garonne, which it overlooks.
Opened on 1 June 2016, it’s a cultural centre celebrating all aspects of wine. 

South Africa is the first wine region to be celebrated with a weekend of events including tastings, music and foods. South African flags were on display throughout the complex.
Discover Pinotage, an iconic South African variety’, a bilingual conference and tasting session was hosted by Beyers Truter. He was supported by students from Elsenburg Agricultural Training Institute that he’d been leading through Europe's wine lands.

Florence Maffrand (La Cite du Vin) , Beyers Truter and Elsenburg Graduates
Beyers was in a jovial mood as he introduced his passion to a mostly French audience and stretched the interpreter’s skill.

He covered the history of Cape wine and Pinotage and looked at growing making and marketing it. 
Beyers Truter at La Cite du Vin
Beyers summed up saying that Pinotage had experienced a 70% growth in its home market, is being planted in more countries and that new marketing initiatives were in the pipeline to boost the Pinotage brand. 

We finished with a tutored tastings of two wines; Mellasat White Pinotage 2015. This oak aged serious supple complex white so impressed  Beyers he plans to visit Mellasat and buy a case on his return. 

We finished with Beyerskloof Pinotage Reserve 2014 that had been poured more than an hour previously and was in perfect condition, succulent, soft and ripe with intense berry flavours.

The Elsenburg students had just heard they'd all passed their exams and had earned their degrees. I spoke with some to find their future plans. One had a position at Cederberg Winery, another at Creation Wines in the Hemel in Aarde Valley, another at his family's vineyard and others were planning on taking some time to work at wineries in the northern hemisphere. Best wishes to them all.

16 November 2016

Neethlingshof''s De Wet Viljoen in London to Accept Pinotage Trophy

Wednesday: To the City of London and the 600 year old Guildhall for the 2016 International Wine & Spirit Competition Awards.

De Wet Viljoen won the Abraham Perold Pinotage Trophy for his Neethlingshof ‘Owl Post’  2014, and Neethlingshof was also a finalist for the South African Wine Producer of the Year.

A week before the event De Wet still hadn’t received his visa so I was very pleasantly surprised when he rushed into the crypt of the Great Hall shortly before the Trophy presentation. His dinner jacket was soaking wet thanks to a heavy shower and he didn’t have a rain coat. In fact he didn’t have any clothes as his bag had been lost by the airline and he’d had to rent the dripping tuxedo he wore. 
De Wet Viljoen (right) accepts Pinotage Trophy from Peter May  representing The Pinotage Association in the presence of IWSC President Matteo Lunelli (left)

I represented the Pinotage Association, sponsors of the Trophy to  present it De Wet in the presence of IWSC President Matteo Lunelli.

After the Trophy presentation we went up to the great hall for dinner and more presentations. South African Wine Producer of the Year was awarded to Nederburg.

Congratulations to De Wet Viljoen and his team at Neethlingshof, and also Nederburg and the many South African medal winners.

Judges' comments on the Trophy winning 'Owl Post' 2014

02 November 2016

Platter 2017 - Two 5 Star Pinotages

The 2017 Platter Guide to South African Wines has awarded just two Pinotages with its highest 5 Star rating. They are

  • Beeslaar 2014
  • Flagstone 'Time Manner Place' 2014

That only two made the grade is disappointing, especially when five Cinsauts gained 5 Stars, as more and better Pinotages are being produced at all price points than ever before.

Congratulations to Abrie Beeslaar and Bruce Jack and his team.

31 October 2016

WoTM – Bellingham Pinopasso 2014

Bellingham’s ‘Pinopasso’ 2014 is my Wine of the Month for September 2014.

I’m no marketer but I don’t think the name or label does this wine justice: it makes a reference to ‘passo’ as in ‘ripasso’ and ‘appassimento’, but how many people understand what these terms mean?

There  is no explanation on the back label, or indeed on the Bellingham website, which incidentally says the wine is 100% Pinotage when the linked fact sheet says it includes 20% Shiraz.

Bellingham say Pinopasso is made in the Repasso style, the wine after fermentation is ‘repassed’ [Italians say Appassimento] over the skins from which it was pressed, which still contain sugar. A fermentation then takes place which then adds much character to the wine, extra tannins and of course alcohol.

The wine is a homage to Italian Prisoners of War who worked at Bellingham and after the war settled in the Cape and built Bellinghams white wine cellar.

I hid the label and served it blind. ‘Smooth’, said one, ‘mature Bordeaux, or maybe Rioja’ said another.

It’s a delicious wine, ripe smooth – 9g/L residual sugar according to the fact sheet, but doesn’t taste sweet. American reviewer Steven Tanzer awarded it 90 points calling it a ‘very sexy wine’.

I’ll be showing the 2015 vintage of this wine at the American Wine Society National Conference on 5 November. I think it’ll impress them as much as it did me. Update 5 November 2016: It was the 2014 vintage that was shipped to the AWS conference, and they did love it, scoring equal top marks with attendees who were stunned by the value and taste at a +/- $12 retail price.


24 October 2016

Aaldering White and Red Pinotages

Aaldering have an interesting range of four Pinotages including a white, pink and two reds, one unwooded.

Aaldering Vineyard and Wines is owned by Marianne and Fons Aaldering,  Dutch entrepreneurs, who in 2004 bought the Devon Valley property previously owned by Hidden Valley winery. The Pinotage vineyard was first planted in 1998 and Aalderings first Pinotage release was the 2007 vintage.

Aaldering   Pinotage Blanc 2016. This white wine comes from a vineyard planted in 1998. Whole bunches were pressed and the skins immediately removed. It hasn’t seen any oak and has an attractive nose with a fresh clean taste but a little lacking in the middle.

Aaldering   ‘Lady M’ Pinotage 2016. This unwooded Pinotage originally came about when  wine  maturing on its lees after undergoing malolactic fermentation and before going into wooden barrel was drawn from stainless steel tanks for an event in the cellars. The wine was such a hit with the guests, but especially Marianne  Aaldering, it was  decided to bottle some as it was and  name it Lady M in her honour. The idea is to make the wine in a   style to get the Pinotage freshness. It is cold soaked to get its purple colour.

And indeed this wine is attractive with fresh juicy flavours giving the feeling of popping a handful of vine dried Pinotage berries into ones mouth. Lovely.

Janine Smink - Global Marketing & Sales Manager
Aaldering Pinotage 2013 which has just been released is their classic barrique aged original. It spent 26 months in 225 litre French oak barrels of which 30% were new. This is a delicious Pinotage, with sweet fruit to the front and red berries spiced with savoury flavours and soft oak tannins.

Unfortunately Aaldering wines don’t appear to be retailed in the UK but I understand they’re in several top restaurants and in KLM and other airlines business class.