20 December 2004

Name Changes

Don't ask for Pinotage - or other wines - from Bellevue, Erica, Uiterwyk or Vlottenburg. All have changed the name on their labels.

Bellevue found it impossible to use that name in Europe, so are branding their wines 'Morkel' after the owning family. Erica Vineyards also had problems with registration and chose the name 'Raka' after owner Piet Dreyer's fishing boat.

Vlottenburg have discarded their distinctive name and chosen the anodyne and immediately forgettable 'Stellenbosch Hills' instead. Apparently they thought 'Vlottenburg' was too difficult for English speakers. I had no problem pronouncing 'Vlottenburg', unlike 'Uiterwyk'. To help people like me, and to avoid confusion with Uitwyk, Uiterwyk wines have been branded with the family name 'De Waal'.

18 December 2004

Bath University Pinotage Tasting

Professor Keiran Molloy at the University of Bath organised a Pinotage tasting for the University Staff Wine Society. He writes " Thank you for your help on the tasting, which was extremely successful and well received. You have converted a lot of people to Pinotage, and personally I will be stocking up on the Stellenzicht, L'Avenir and Kanonkop (which was far more approachable even at this stage than I had expected)".

His notes with "an unscientific marking of each wine out of 10, which reflects relative rather than absolute merit" follow.

Southern Right 2002 - The lightest of all the wines tasted. Bright red colour, mix of red and black fruit flavours, full flavour in mouth, short on finish. An uncomplicated wine that won't disappoint but is unmemorable. No noticeable tannins so a wine for drinking now rather than keeping. (5.5/10)

Flagstone Writers Block 2002 -
Mid-red colour, light tannins, sweetish red fruit flavours with a smokey finish. More body and slightly longer in the finish than Southern Right. A popular wine for immediate drinking. (7/10).

Groot Constantia Estate 2001 -
Similar in colour to the Southern Right. Darker fruit flavours becoming more apparent than the earlier two wines. Full flavour in mouth but again short on finish. Earthy flavours, with smoke/tar finish. A more lively wine than the opening pair with more of a zing. By the end of the tasting, after being open for about 3h, this wine developed pronounced southern Rhône flavours becoming reminiscent of a Gigondas and far more complex in nature (6/10, based on early evening opinion)

Bellevue Estate 2000 - Deep red colour with well integrated tannins. This is a far more complex wine and would work better at this stage in its life with food. There is a hint of eucalyptus on the nose and nice mixed red/black fruit flavours. Other tasting notes suggested this was a controversial "new age" wine but that was not the opinion of the group. Good value for money as the cheapest wine in the tasting. (7/10)

Stellenzicht Golden Triangle 2000 -
Deep red colour with purple hue. Obvious and yet soft tannins which are well balanced with the fruit, this is a wine which is drinking well now (perhaps better with food) but a long and exceptional future ahead of it. A long, full mouthful of plums and black fruit flavours. (7.5/10)

Neethlingshof Estate Lord Neethling 1998 -
The most controversial of the wines presented. Dry tannins with less weight of fruit than the Stellenzicht. Mid-weight fruit overall, plum, blackcurrant and mulberry flavours with a slightly smokey edge. The fruit/tannin balance is not as good as Stellenzicht, and the wine has a sharp, spicey, slightly burning finish with met with divergent reaction. (7.5/10 but some much higher, some much lower )

L'Avenir Estate 2002 - The most popular of the wines tasted, drinking perfectly now but with enough soft tannins to ensure a long life. This is a very smooth wine with a hint of creamy vanilla on the nose. The flavours are of sweetish red and black fruits and there is a very long finish from this wine. Excellent. (8.5/10)

Kanonkop Estate 2001 -
This wine could be described as a younger version of the L'Avenir in that it has similar characteristics but is less well evolved at this stage in its life. There is again the soft creamy flavours of oak/vanilla with loads of dark fruit flavours, but which are more hidden at this stage than for the l'Avenir. This wine became better and better with increased aeration. A wine that can be drunk with pleasure now but will be a real star in 5+ years time. (8/10)"


13 December 2004

African Queen Promotes Pinotage

Melissa Dicent has been travelling the USA in "The African Queen" tour bus promoting South Africa wines for importer Hemingway and Hale.

She says "The most exciting thing is people's interest in Pinotage and is by far my favorite part of the presentation. Not only do we have the excellent Indalo Pinotage which is doing very well, but we also have the Serengeti (migration) Pinotage - wine maker- Jan du Preez- has been very well received in the market place - a favorite - and was actually made wine of the week by Jane Garvey in the Atlanta Journal Constitution and I have no doubt that she will write up on the Indalo Pinotage in the near future. We also have the Goiya - shiraz/pinotage blend which has proved to be a real hit!!

Anyway I will continue to do my utmost to promote Pinotage!!"

12 December 2004

A Pocket full of Pinotage

Graham Howe

Take three adjoining vineyards with award-winning Pinotage - and one winemaker with a hand in the making of all three wines. What have you got? A pocketful of Pinotage that is the origin of a spectrum of styles from single vineyards planted 300 hundred metres apart. The man with the winery in the middle is Pinotage guru Pierre Wahl, winemaker at Rijk's Cellar and consultant at both neighbouring Tecoma and Manley Private Cellars.

Is Tulbagh the new terroir for Pinotage? Two of the wines from adjacent vineyards made the top twenty finalists in the Absa Top 10 Pinotage Competition 2004 - Rijk's Private Cellar Pinotage 2001 (a top ten winner for the third time) and Tecoma Unfiltered Pinotage 2002. Pierre Wahl gave us a lesson in Pinotage at the awards luncheon at the Mount Nelson, describing the different slope orientation of the vineyards and the different styles of wine produced by distinctions in micro-climate and cellar treatment.

Winner of double gold at Veritas 2001 and a trophy winner at the International Wine Challenge 2002, Rijk's Pinotage 2001 bears more medals than an American general. Made from low yields (1,4 tons per ha) from a single vineyard, the succulent, spicy Pinotage with hallmark plum and banana flavours was thoroughly pampered - night-harvested, handpicked and romanced in new French and American oak for 18 months. The result is a blockbuster - from a cellar which put Tulbagh reds on the map with Rijk's Pinotage 2000, winning Wine's Champion Pinotage 2002 and a Absa Top 10 place.

Pinotage is big business in these hills. On a walk through the vineyards, Pierre Wahl pointed out the highly-prized patch of Pinotage in a picturesque landscape of mountain peaks and rolling vineyards. Rijk's cellar also makes and sells Tecoma's Pinotage (winner of Veritas 2004 gold) from the fruit farm next-door - an elegant wine with a rich complex nose, intense purple colour and spicy berry, plum and coffee flavours with ripe tannins.

On the other side of Rijk's, we strolled through the tiny patch of vineyards of Manley Private Cellar located at Hunter's Retreat guest-house. David Jordan has won acclaim for its maiden wines, with a big individualistic Pinotage 2002 matured in all new oak in the micro-cellar with ripe berry flavours. Jordan says, "I tore out a pear orchard to plant wines. Winemaking is my passion now. We've disproved the notion that you can't grow reds in Tulbagh. I'm just a mechanic really - I do the simple things like designing a tumble drier as a destemmer to gently handle the berries!"

While Stellenbosch continued to dominate the Absa Top 10 Pinotage Competition 2004, taking the lion's share of the awards, Raka winery made history by winning a place with the first certified wine of origin from the new Kleinrivier ward near Stanford, Hermanus. Made by woman winemaker Teresa Fourie, the Raka Pinotage 2003 was made from a single vineyard and matured in a combination of first, second and third fill French oak. Other areas performing consistently on the show include Wellington and Franschhoek.

(Courtesy of http://www.wine.co.za/)

11 December 2004

Simonsig Redhill 2002

The first red wine made by Simonsig was a 1970 Pinotage. They now craft two styes, unwooded and a oak aged Pinotage called Redhill; they're particularly proud of the just released 2002 Redhill Pinotage.

The name Redhill comes from a vineyard block named ‘Rooibult’. Simonsig viticulturist Francois Malan says “the terroir of this specific vineyard block with its deep red soil composition of decomposed shale and granite definitely improved our odds to reap the full potential of this wine”

The 2002 vintage endured an exceptionally wet winter followed by excessive rainfall during spring leading to 25% of the crop lost to downy mildew. However cool temperatures helped develop optimum flavour and acidity in the grapes.

“Fortunately February and March were warm and dry, which accelerated the ripening period, resulting in a beautifully, albeit small, balanced Pinotage crop with remarkable colour and concentration,” said Johan Malan, Simonsig’s winemaker, who describes the 2002 Redhill Pinotage as “an intense style wine with awesome depth and length of concentrated Pinotage sweetness, lusciously melded with toasty new oak and grained tannins that satisfies with a long ripe fruit finish.”

10 December 2004

Tasting Wheel

In the July 2003 we reported that Dr Johann Marais, Specialist Scientist at ARC Infruitec-Nietvoorbij had been asked by the Pinotage Association to develop a Pinotage aroma wheel.

The project is now complete. The wheel lists 14 primary and 44 secondary characteristics. The wheel can be ordered from the Pinotage association at info@pinotage.co.za , or downloaded from http://www.wynboer.co.za/recentarticles/0409wheel.php3


07 December 2004

More NZ Pinotage

New Zealand's northernmost winery has just released its first wines, which include a Pinotage.

Karikari Estate vineyard and winery located on the Karikari Peninsula, with an neighbouring 18-hole golf course is owned by American tycoon Paul Kelly.

The first vines were planted in 1998 and by the end of next year they will have 101 acres under vines. The first wines, from the 2003 vintage, were released in September 2004. Karikari's winemaker is Ben Dugdale assisted by consultant Kim Crawford.

06 December 2004

Recent Dinner Wines

Beyerskloof 'Reserve Selection' 2003, WO Stellenbosch, 15% abv -- A not yet
released 'barrel selection' for the UK Sainsbury chain from 20-40 year old
un-irrigated bush vines. Another serious offering from Mr Truter, attractive nose leads into a brooding giant of a wine, there's tobacco leaf and tangy spices on top over unplumbed depths just waiting for time to release them. Beyers told me he made it to be at its best in 10 years but I wonder how many Sainsbury's customers will keep it that long. A 2004 Top 10 finalist.

Deetlefs 2001, Rawsonville 13.5% abv -- Deep garnet, berry nose, intense blueberry and plum flavours backed by medium tannins and a medium long finish. Enjoyable drinkable meal friendly wine.

Delheim Estate 2001, WO Stellenbosch, 13.5%abv -- Closed and shy when first opened, but after 30 minutes it opens out to show sophisticated plummy flavours and soft well integrated tannins - a European style dinner wine rather than an in-your-face fruit bomb, and all the better for it!

Swartland Winery Indalo 2002, WO Swartland -- Slow to show soft spicy nose, plums, mulberries, Pinotage sweetness with refreshing acidity, spicy mid palate, later developing flavours of mocha, chocolate and tobacco leaf. A delicious wine from Pinotage master Andries Blake.

Olsen Wineries 2003, WO Paarl, 14.5% abv -- Pleasant medium light bodied wine, a little green on front palate on first opening, but after a while opened it develops soft blueberry fruits at the forefront and ripe fruits in the middle and a shortish finish. Needs decanting.

10 November 2004

London Pinotage Tasting

The Pinotage Club tasted the 2003 Pinotage Top 10 on 9 November 2004. We were glad to welcome as co-host David Brice from Cape Town's Wine Cellar who came laden with wines he'd hand carried from South Africa. The event was fully booked with a waiting list.

As a bonus we started with a tank sample of a new wine from Fairview, a Pinotage fermented with about 4.5% of Viognier. Small amounts of white Viognier have traditionally been fermented with red grapes in the Rhone but science has only recently discovered what French vignerons instinctively knew; a reaction occurs that results in better flavour and colour extraction.

Fairview Pinotage/Viognier 2003 - A very approachable wine with a delightful
palate packed with sweet fruits, redcurrants, rounded and a good finish. This was a tank sample, the wine has not yet been released, but look out for it.

We tasted the 2003 Top 10 in alphabetical order and marked out of 7, my marks are given followed by the group average.

Allee Bleue 2002 - Opaque dense colour, fruity nose, full body, some high acids, good tannins & grip (4 - 4.5)

Bellevue Estate 2002 - Dark fruits, firm tannins and crisp acids, hint of banana (5 - 4.2)

DeWaal 2002 - Sweet berry nose, beautiful purple glass staining colour, dry and tastes duty in the middle palate. (4 - 4.3)

Graham Beck Old Road 2002 - Quite dry on front palate but opens out to reveal nice plummy fuits (4 - 4.3)

Wamakersvallei La Cave 2002 - Oh dear, oh dear. I had so much hopes for this wine which is not available in the UK and which I often enjoyed while in the Cape. But it was stinky corked. (no marks - corked)

L'Avenir Estate 2002 - Delicious ripe fruits, good depth, underpinned with soft tannins (6 - 5.2)

Rijks Private Cellar 2002 - Wonderful sweet fruits on front palate, a bit closed in the middle. (5 - 4.9)

Slaley Hunting Family 2002 - Bright clear, lovely fruits of the forest flavours and spices, long finish (5 - 4.3)

Rooiberg Reserve 2001 - Tangy crisp fruits, interesting, dollops of fruits, spicy. (6 - 4.5)

Stellenzicht Golden Triangle 2001 - Big fruity nose with spices & acids, bit dusty in middle. (5 - 5)

It's difficult to host a discussion while writing notes, hence the bevity of the notes.

24 October 2004

Oak & Mulberries

Michael Olivier, author of Nosh! newsletter enjoyed Wildekrans Pinotage 2002, "all gentle, soft and velvety with ripe red fruits underpinned by fine oak." and Onderkloof Pinotage 2002 "which reminds me of warm dusty mulberries picked off a tree when I was a boy, more juice down my shirt than inside! Wonderful fruit and gentle brushing of oak."

To subscribe to nosh! send a blank email with the words subscribe nosh! in the subject line to noshnews@iafrica.com

16 October 2004

What a Mistake to Make!

Nitida won a Double Gold award at Veritas for their 2003 Pinotage. I visited Nitida winery (the name comes from a local protea flower) on low rolling hills outside Durbanville.

"We are amazed and delighted," winemaker Jacus Marais told me. "We didn't expect it as we don't make Pinotage in a big wooded style, and never felt Pinotage is one of our strengths. We had a hectare of Pinotage but have just replaced half of them with Cabernet Sauvignon. Our Pinotage style is medium bodied with a minerally edge and we didn't bother entering the Top 10 Competition because we didn't think we had a chance."

The Nitida 2003 Pinotage was aged for 10-11 months in 2nd/3rd/4th fill French oak barrels from five different coopers, and costs 50R from the winery.

15 October 2004

Judging at Veritas and Absa Top 10

I was honoured to be invited to judge at Veritas and the Pinotage ABSA Top 10 competition. Veritas judging covered four days. On the first day I was on a panel judging Cape Blends, then Pinotage until Wednesday. The last day I judged Ruby Cabernet and 'other' red varieties, including Zinfandel, Touriga Nacional, Sangiovese, Petit Verdot, Mouvedre etc.

Judges sit in booths with a tasting sheet that names only the cultivar and vintage. Wines in groups of ten poured into ISO glasses which are brought on a tray. After tasting, the judges move to a table in another room, disclose their scores and discuss the wines. In rare cases of wide variation in scores, wines are called back for a retaste. Candidates for Gold & Double Gold are also re-tasted.

Pinotage Top 10 judging took place on the Friday of Veritas week, and followed the same process, except this time we looked for the best 20 wines out of those submitted. We then retasted all 20 finalists to make our final selection of the Top 10.

I was very aware that in my glass was the result of the efforts of a lot of people over a year, and I had to be fair to them, but also fair to consumers who use competitions for their purchasing decisions.

So why wasn't there a exact match between Veritas and Top 10? There are several reasons: not all wines were entered for both competitions, judging panels were different and the wines came from different bottles. Anyone who opens multiple bottles of the same wine at the same time will have experienced bottle variation.

At no time did judges know the identity of the wines they tasted, and we had no advance notice of winners.

14 October 2004

Pinotage Top 10 - 2004

Winners of the ABSA/Pinotage Association 'Top 10' competition were announced in Cape Town on Thursday 14 October. They are

  • Bay View Pinotage 2003 (Longridge/Winecorp - Stellenbosch)
  • La Cave Pinotage 2003 (Wamakersvallei Wine Cellar - Wellington)
  • Laibach Pinotage 2003 (Laibach Vineyards - Stellenbosch)
  • L'Avenir Pinotage 2003 (L'Avenir Estate - Stellenbosch)
  • Môreson Pinotage 2003 (Môreson - Franschhoek)
  • Raka Pinotage 2003 (Raka - Stanford)
  • Rijk's Private Cellar Pinotage 2001 (Rijk's Private Cellar - Tulbagh)
  • Sentinel Pinotage 2003 (Coppoolse Finlayson-Sentinel Winery - Stellenbosch)
  • Spice Route Pinotage 2003 (Spice Route Wine Company - Swartland)
  • Spier Private Collection 2002 (Spier/Winecorp - Stellenbosch)

The runners up were Altydgedacht 2001, Beaumont 2002, Beyerskloof Reserve Collection 2003, Beyerskloof Select Winemakers 2003, Diemersfontein 2003, Hill & Dale 2003, Jacobsdal 2001, Morgenhof Estate 2001, Stellenzicht Golden Triangle 2002, and Tecoma 2002.

Winemaker Francois Naudé of L'Avenir Estate holds the record with wins in seven of the eight competitions.

While it was good to see wineries showing consistency by repeating previous successes (La Cave, Rijk's, Laibach, and Môreson) it is also exciting to see new names among the winners and new areas. Raka is a new vineyard in a ward, Kleinrivier, that was only registered in August.

Dr Steve Booysen, group chief executive of Absa said "Similar to Absa, the new achievements of the Pinotage society stand on the shoulders of the previous year's successes. There seems to be a trend that on the international scene Pinotage is slowly but surely becoming the preferred South African red wine. Absa is very proud to be a sponsor of this competition and to be part of the Pinotage Association's objective to always improve continuous quality and volume. We agree with the author Elbert Hubbard who said art is the beautiful way of doing things, science is the effective way of doing things and business is the economic way of doing, and when you combine it - as is the case with fine Pinotage wines - the final product is higher in every facet. To me it is the essence of what is achieved every year."

Pinotage Association Chairman, Beyers Truter, said "There has been a tremendous growth in quality Pinotage over the past decade. I'm not saying all future Pinotages will be fault-free, but this won't be because of the cultivar but the winemaker. To make Pinotage is not easy. You have to control acid, PH and tannins and it's easy to get bacterial spoilage. But those that can make Pinotage can make any wine. We know the cultivar and we are making classic wines that can compete with the best in the world."

Beyerskloof was a runner-up with two reserves. The Beyerskloof Select Winemakers 2003 is a special bottling for South Africa's 'Wine of the Month Club' and the Beyerskloof Reserve Collection 2003 is specially blended for the UK supermarket Sainsbury. Owner/winemaker Beyers Truter told me he wasn't surprised at the success of the special blends as they "are blended to be more immediately attractive, and they have an open inviting nose." He makes his regular Reserve for ageing, with more wood and sees them reaching a peak in ten years.

He remained cheerful when his wines didn't reach the final ten, congratulating the winners and saying how pleased he was to see a new generation of young winemakers making such of a success of the cultivar he has championed over the years

The judges for the 2004 competition were Duimpie Bayly (convener), Peter May (wine writer from England and honourary member of the Pinotage Association), Neil Pendock (wine writer), Charl Theron (wine consultant and previously head of production at KWV), Mike Louw (wine consultant), Jenny Ratcliff (Cape Wine Master) and Dave Hughes (international wine judge from South Africa).

08 October 2004

Veritas Awards 2004

On Friday 8 October in Paarl the results of the 14th annual Veritas competition were announced. Veritas is South Africa's biggest competition for market ready wines and the wine industry’s most authoritative quality guideline.

This year's entries were evaluated over a period of four days by 13 panels of seven judges each. Local experts were joined by five international adjudicators – UK Master of Wine Lynne Sherriff, Peter May (United Kingdom), Ton Kolsteeg (The Netherlands), Janake Johansson (Sweden) and Dave Hughes (South Africa).

I was on the Pinotage panel chaired by Francois Naude (winemaker) with Gert Boerssen (manager/winemaker), Henry Kotze (winemaker), Heidi Kritzinger(winery marketing manager), Chris Roux (winemaker) and Fred Viljoen (owner/winemaker). We tasted 153 Pinotages, almost all of which were good drinking, but we were very selective and awarded only three Double Golds and five Golds, as follows.
  • DG Boland Pinotage 2002
  • DG Nitida Pinotage 2003
  • DG Wamakersvallei La Cave Pinotage 2003
  • G Hill & Dale Pinotage 2003
  • G L'Avenir Pinotage 2003
  • G Raka Pinotage 2003
  • G Stellenzicht Golden Triangle Pinotage 2002
  • G Tecoma Pinotage Unfiltered 2002

There were 41 silver and 71 Bronze awards. The full list of all Veritas awards can be seen at www.veritas.co.za

Koelenhof Pinotage Rosé 2004 won a Gold in the Rosé category

Note that the DG winning Boland wine is a special 'winemakers selection' available only at the winery at 60R, not the ordinary Boland Pinotage at 27R.

05 October 2004

Pinotage is a HUSP for South Africa

Pinotage is not just a USP for South Africa, stated Beyers Truter: it's a HUSP - a Huge Unique Selling Point. Truter, owner/winemaker at Beyerskloof Winery & Chair of the Pinotage Association, was speaking to UK based clients of ABSA Bank, sponsors of the annual Pinotage Top 10 Competition at a Pinotage tasting and luncheon in London on 5 October 2004.

He said that because "Pinotage wine was first made just 80 years ago, it is still in baby shoes", compared with varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. However, "through extensive research by the Pinotage Association, we know more about growing and making Pinotage than is known about any other variety anywhere".

Truter said winemakers must ask themselves "do I want to be an imitator or an innovator?" He declared "Pinotage makers are the innovators of South Africa and we're aiming to make the best Pinotage in the world."

The event was held in the wine cellar of South African owned Vivat Bacchus restaurant, a partner of Johannesburg's Browns restaurant. It started with a walk around tasting of ten top Pinotages, selected to represent the best wines of recent years. They were poured by five leading winemakers, Dirkie Morkel (Bellevue Estate), Francois Naude (L'Avenir Estate), Danie Steytler (Kaapzicht Estate), Bennie Wannenburg (Wamakersvallei Winery) and Beyers Truter.

A luncheon menu especially prepared to match the wines, with Pinotage a component of several dishes, included starter 'Freezer Cured Pinotage Foie Gras' and main course 'Pinotage Braised Daube of Beef'. Dessert wasaccompanied by the unique sweet Pineau de Laborie, a part fermented Pinotage wine fortified with Pinotage brandy.

Dirkie Morkel reflected that although few of the guests were previously familiar with Pinotage, there was great enthusiasm for the wines, and the level of general wine knowledge was high. "I was put on the spot several times by detailed questions", he said. Beyers Truter concluded the event had been a resounding success, and suggested it could become an annual event.

The wines were:
  • Allee Bleue 2002
  • Bellevue 2002
  • Beyerskloof Reserve 2001
  • Graham Beck Old Road 2002
  • Kaapzicht Steytler 2001
  • L'Avenir 2000
  • Rijk's Private Cellar 2002
  • Tukulu 2001
  • Uiterwyk De Waal 2002
  • Wamakersvallei La Cave 2002
  • Pineau de Laborie 2001

01 October 2004

Pinotage Wins Kumala Growers Challenge 2004

Klawer Winery Pinotage 2004 won the Kumala Growers' Challenge Trophy, announced on 29 September. Kumala is South Africa's biggest export brand selling some 2.5 million cases annually in the United Kingdom and other international markets. The judges were Dave Hughes (wine judge/writer) Tony Mossop (Winemaker/writer) and Joanne Simon (UK wine writer)

The judging panel found the Klawer Pinotage to be "an excellent example of a well made New World wine packed with ripe plums and cherries and laced with hints of coconut. The vanilla and soft cedar oak tones are well integrated. The palate is well rounded, weighted yet soft and graceful with good structure and length."

Joanne Simon said the Klawer Pinotage "stood out head and shoulders above the rest".

The wine is intended for the Kumala range

29 August 2004

2004 Pinotage Vintage

The annual Pinotage new vintage tasting sampled 13 wines from tanks and barrels selected from various regions. Although 2004 was one of the most difficult harvests ever for the wine industry, the flexibility and continuous quality of Pinotage clearly showed to the eighty wine experts, wine makers and wine writers who gathered at Doornbosch in Stellenbosch in June.

“Compared to last year’s excellent harvest overall, it took much more effort in 2004 to source the prime vineyards, but the wines from all the regions still showed good structure and high quality,” says Charles Hopkins, board member of the Pinotage Association “After enjoying one of the best vintages in decades last year, the Cape winelands this year experienced one of the most difficult vintages ever. It is therefore very gratifying that in spite of the adverse climatic conditions and high volume harvest, which usually has a detrimental effect on quality, the 2004 Pinotage wines which were tasted showed a constant line of fine quality.”

The vice-chairman of the Pinotage Association and Cape Wine Master, Duimpie Bayly, emphasised the versatility of the Pinotage variety. “Pinotage is a very stable variety – this was a very challenging harvest, but it still delivered superb wines. With regard to the market, this South African variety’s versatility is a plus factor. A good example is Rosé wines, which are now becoming increasingly popular internationally and Pinotage is also ideal for this style of wine. People are looking for good quality wines that are very drinkable.

Prof. Joël van Wyk, a retired lecturer in Oenology and honorary member of the Pinotage Association, agreed that the versatility of Pinotage is not fully utilized. “You can make top quality Rosé wines with Pinotage grapes, while it also supplies an excellent base for Port. The different approaches in styles of Pinotage red wines which were experienced at the new vintage tasting, is also very gratifying. With Pinotage you can satisfy everybody’s taste preferences.

“Because Pinotage grapes ripen early, it usually is harvested before the heat wave that hits the Cape winelands in February. Pressing techniques also play a role. Pinotage grapes have beautiful fruit, colour and tannins and the long skin contact during fermentation is not always necessary. The result is more elegant wines with lower alcohol without sacrificing structure and fruit flavours,” says Prof. Van Wyk.

The 2004 vintage is one of the largest ever for Pinotage by volume. The common characteristics of the 2004 Pinotage wines tasted include excellent colour and typical banana and plum flavours. Experts agreed that although most of the wines were very accessible, all the wines boasted an aftertaste full of lingering flavours.

The wine cellars from the regions and wards whose wines were selected for the new vintage tasting by their representatives, were Aan-de-Doorns (Worcester), Citrusdal Kelder, Diemersfontein (Wellington), Domaine Brahms (Paarl), Lanzerac (Stellenbosch), Middelvlei (Devon Valley), Mooiplaas (Bottelary), Neethlingshof (Stellenbosch), Rico Suter Landgoed (Rawsonville), Seidelberg Landgoed (Paarl), Sumaridge Wyne (Walker Bay), Swartland Wynkelder (Malmesbury) en Viljoensdrift (Robertson).

27 August 2004

Sentinal Wows Fairbairn

Sentinel Vineyards Pinotage 2003 was named Best Pinotage at South Africa's Fairbairn Capital Trophy Wine Show, and was also awarded the trophy for Discovery of the Show.

'Discovery of the Show' is an award based on the quality-price ratio of the wines entered, and Sentinel Pinotage was deemed to offer the best value of all.

French wine authority Michel Bettane was effusive in his praise: 'The Pinotage winner was superb, quite superb. It shows what refined Pinotage is capable of'. According to WINE magazine he likened it to Zinfandel, which went out of fashion, and is now making a comeback forcing those that scorned it to eat their words.

23 August 2004

Recent Dinner Wines

Ken Forrester Petit Pinotage 2003
An inviting fresh raspberry nose, light bodied with high acid and a surprisingly puckering dry woody finish. I'd like more fruit in mid-palate. Essential with food because of the acids and tannins and rather old fashioned. Disappointing.

Sylvanvale Pinotage Reserve 1999
On my trips to the Cape I'd made several journeys up Devon Valley to call at the Devon Valley hotel, wander through the vineyards that surround it and try to
attract the bar staff to taste the wine made from them. But it took some years
before I managed to buy their Pinotage as it quickly sells out. Perhaps I was just
expecting too much, but I found this wine an average Pinotage, starting to fade
with not enough fruit or 'oomph' to excite.

Beyerskloof Pinotage 2002
Not the reserve, but the regular bottling gives lots of pleasure with a full meaty body, dark plummy flavours and perfectly balanced fruit and tannins. But Beyers labels should stop saying Pinotage is unique to South Africa; its neither true nor a good selling point.

12 August 2004

WINE Magazine's Pinotage Whines

WINE MAGAZINE - South Africa's equivalent to Decanter - has recently turned against Pinotage with a vengeance. Deputy editor Christian Eedes is a big fan of Shiraz but is unable to praise that variety without disparaging Pinotage at the same time. Some of his email newsletters have literally infuriated Pinotage makers and the print magazine seems to miss no opportunity to take a dig at the variety. It’s a rare issue that doesn't have an anti-Pinotage letter. One was from a man who had taken a mouthful of a Cape Blend from a friends glass; he didn't like it so felt compelled to write to WINE to complain about Pinotage. Another called for all Pinotage to be uprooted as it’s an 'embarrassment to our country". If you're surprised that no-one has written in response, well they have, but printing pro-Pinotage letters doesn't seem to match WINE’s current direction.

Since 1997 WINE has promoted a Pinotage Champion Award, in association with the SPAR grocery chain, but the competition was abruptly junked this year in favour of a similar Shiraz challenge. In its place was ‘Value for Money’ Pinotage, awarded to 2002 vintage Pinotage costing under 40 ZAR that scored highest in the magazine’s tasting over the previous year.

Editor Fiona McDonald says “There’s a level of excitement and enthusiasm about Shiraz and its potential that Pinotage cannot match”

Congratulations to the three winners of WINE’s new value for money award

  • Du Toitskloof 2002 (28 ZAR)
  • McGregor 2002 (24 ZAR)
  • Lutzville ‘Most Westerly’ 2002 (18.40 ZAR)

Meanwhile in the rest of the world, Israel has produced it first Pinotage “not only a rousing success in its own right but perhaps the very best wine ever from Barkan” winery , and Muddy Water winery in New Zealand claims Pinotage “could be to New Zealand what Zinfandel is to California."

Christian Eedes, whose opinion is "Pinotage is so 1990s", said in February 2004 "Cape Blends in general, might be superficially entertaining but they ultimately lack the depth to count amongst the truly great wines of the world." In July 2004 the International Wine & Spirit Competition declared the worlds best blended red wine is a Cape Blend. That is the best of any red blend from the 30 countries who entered the competition.

03 August 2004

What's in The World's Best Red Blend?

Kaapzicht Steytler Vision 2001, which contains 40% Pinotage, is the worlds best red blend. It won the international Trophy for the Best Red Blend in the 2004 International Wine and Spirit Competition (IWSC) competion, announced in London in July. IWSC boasts the most highly qualified group of international judges of any wine and spirit competition in the world.

“We make sure that our 40 Masters of Wine and our prominent trade judges from all over the world are balanced by knowledgeable consumer judges," said David Wrigley, Master of Wine and Chairman of the Technical and Judging Committee." All judges, including the Masters of Wine, must go through an induction process and a trail judging day before they are allowed to officially judge on a panel”.

Kaapzicht Steytler Vision 2001 is a Cape Blend containing 40% Pinotage, 50% Cabernet Sauvignon and 10% Merlot.

Danie Steytler, owner and winemaker of Kaapzicht Estate said “Most winemakers and marketers agree that a so-called Cape Blend should contain at least 30% Pinotage, but I wanted to make our homegrown red wine grape variety even more prominent, therefore the 40% Pinotage. South Africa must have its own unique red blend rather than always imitate other countries. This award is a blessing from God and one will always be grateful.”

"My viewpoint is that if you want to make a top blend you must select the very best wines. The blend is as good as the building blocks you use. One thing is for sure, South Africa’s homegrown Pinotage is an excellent variety to use in top quality red blends. This highest international award at one of the world’s most prominent wine competitions confirms it,” says Danie. The specific Pinotage vineyard which was the source for these award winning wines, was planted by Danie’s father, George Steytler, in 1970. It is a bush vine cultivated in Clovelly soil on the northeasterly slopes of the Bottelary Hills.

“In the cellar the wine was pumped over the skins softly but continuously for many hours and many days to obtain maximum colour and flavour extract. After three years it is now showing its full potential - wines made in this way need time in the bottle. It will probably reach its peak in 2007,” says Danie.

According to the judges, the Kaapzicht Steytler Vision 2001 is an excellent example of the blender's art. "A complex elegant refined wine with lovely backbone and structure. The blending skills extend to the fine use of oak. Rich fruit is beautifully balanced throughout". The same wine also received a double gold medal at the 2003 Michelangelo International Wine Awards.


Kaapzicht also won international trophy for the Best Pinotage at the 2004 IWSC with its Kaapzicht Steytler Pinotage 2001.

The Steytler family has been cultivating vineyards and making wine on Kaapzicht since 1946, and these two international awards and history being made with the Vision 2001, came at a very appropriate time. Kaapzicht this year is celebrating their 20th anniversary since the very first wines were bottled on the estate under the Kaapzicht label in 1984. Up until then all the wines were sold in bulk to the wholesale wine producers.

The specific Pinotage vineyard which was the source for this and the winning Vision blend, was planted by Danie’s father, George Steytler, in 1970. It is planted to bush vines cultivated in Clovelly soil on the northeasterly slopes of the Bottelary Hills.


01 August 2004

Anthony Hamilton Russell Excites!

Hamilton Russell Vineyard’s reputation is built on their Burgundian style Pinot Noir and Chardonnays. For more than 20 years they’ve been recognised not only as South African icons but among the best anywhere.

But owner Anthony Hamilton Russell is also passionate about Pinotage which he releases under the Southern Right label and he will shortly announce a new Pinotage label – Ashbourne. Anthony attended our February Pinotage tasting in Cape Town and invited me to visit his cellars to taste some of his wines.

Anthony is surprising young for a major winery owner, always impeccably dressed and intense where Pinotage is concerned. “I believe so much in the potential of the variety”, he stated, “and I just wish people would put more effort into making Pinotage. It’s unique to our country and adds to the world of wine.” I mentioned WINE magazines flirtation with Shiraz. Anthony was definite that “Shiraz is not the answer for South Africa! Anyone trying to put Pinotage on the map is more innovative than those trying to rip-off Australian Shiraz.”

Hamilton Russell Vineyard’s cellar is set among his vineyards on a cliff high overlooking the town of Hermanus in Walker Bay. Part of is sunk under ground and the upper floor has doors under the eave at each end to let air circulate. Unfortunately the thatched roof was made at too low an angle and the huge supporting logs are forcing the walls apart. Underground the air is cool, the walls stained with fungus and it could be a centuries old cave in France.

In 1998 Southern Right purchased a 113 hectare farm in Walker Bay. Anthony is convinced that Pinotage needs a cool climate for slow ripening to encourage fruit complexity and tannins, and performs best on clay soils. He has identified areas of stony clay-rich Bokkeveld shale soils on the farm to plant his Pinotage vineyards. He also sources grapes from four nearby vineyards previously planted as joint ventures with the farmers.

Southern Right’s first Pinotage was the 1995 vintage. Just 162 cases were made, and the aim is to increase production to an eventual target of 10,000 cases. 2003 vintage saw 6450 cases.

Southern Right 1995 13.18% Pinot Noir nose, deep black core, browning. Light
bodied, touch of kelp and iodine. The fruit for this wine came from Beaumont and
it was aged in new Alliers oak.

Southern Right 1997 12.42%
A musty brettanomyces nose which cleared leaving a soft and attractive wine, backed with sweet fruit, light bodied and elegant.

Southern Right 2002 14.34%
Bright red colour, warm coconut nose, soft bodied with light red-currant flavours.
Beautifully balanced. This has a WO Western Cape as some of the grapes were
bought in.

Southern Right 2003 13.69%
Bright clear ruby colour, soft full nose, surprisingly light, enjoyably easy drinking with a long lingering aftertaste and a backbone of tannins. WO Walker Bay, from Southern Right’s own and partner vineyards.

Ashbourne 2001 13.9% barrel sample
This comes the Bastenburg block. It’s a single vineyard Pinotage. It's not been racked and has a funky nose, high acids and flavours of cherry and a hint of iron, medium aftertaste, dried berries and tannins and a dry finish.

Anthony says his intention is to make a “quirky individual wine that some will like, but others won’t. It’s not enough to be pleasing; you have to have excite someone. Controversial wines do this”. Anthony is considering blending in a tiny – less than 2% - of Roobernet, a very new grape variety developed in South Africa by crossing the historic red-juiced Pontac and Cabernet Sauvignon.

Bastenburg 2003 tank sample, not yet filtered
Exuberant purple red, immensely enjoyable quaffable wine with rich berry fruits, spicy rounded and soft, fruit tannins on the end. Anthony is looking for some “more complexity and refinement.” He doesn’t want it to go “overripe with excessive alcohol and wood.”

Anthony says Pinotage has all the quantities to make a world class wine, and world class wines are the only ones he’s interested in making.

25 May 2004

LIWSF 2005

Wines of South Africa featured a tasting stand of six different varieties over the three days of London's International Wine & Spirit Fair held in May 2004. I staffed the stand on the Pinotage day where I poured

Bergsig 2002
Beyerskloof Reserve 2002
Citrusdal Cardouw 2001
Kaapzicht Estate Steytler 2001
La Cave 2002
Lord Neethling 1999
Middelvlei 2000
Slaley 2002
Southern Right 2002
Stellenzicht Golden Triangle 2001
Tukulu 2001
Viljoensdrift 2002
Wildekrans 2002

There was a lot of interest and the stand was busy all the time. A French party from OIV (International Office of Vine and Wine) wanted to taste Pinotage which they'd only heard about and several sommeliers and restauranteurs came looking for Pinotages to list, especially those not currently distributed in the UK so they could have an exclusive.

Some people came with colleagues who didn't want to taste as they 'didn't like Pinotage.' But when encouraged to take a glass they all revised their opinion. The best way to overcome negativity against Pinotage is to let people taste the wonderful wines now being made.

17 May 2004

What They're Saying

"The difference between Kiwi and South African Pinotage is climatic. The South African climate ripens it quicker making it more steely, but it makes ours more fruity and pinot-like. While it can be a bit too in your face, alcoholic and obviously fruity, ultimately it could be to New Zealand what Zinfandel is to California." Brenda Gould, winemaker at New Zealand's Muddy Water winery. ("WINE Gourmet Traveller" Australia Jan 04)

"The Cape vineyards also produce a variety of internationally acclaimed wines like Burgundy and Cabernet Sauvignon. Of the numerous exported varieties, the most popular is the Pinotage." (Mumbai NewsOnline 27/4/04)

"Who'd have thought it? South Africa's Pinotage grape is starting to produce some stylish red wines," says Joanna Simon, and she cites 2002 Flagstone Writers Block Pinotage "Everything Pinotage should be: sweet berry fruit, chocolate richness." (The Sunday Times,UK 2 May 04)

"Delheim Pinotage Rosé 2003 brimming with red berries and finishing with an invigorating kick of acidity. (Beppi Crosariol, 15 May 04, Globe & Mail Toronto)

"Funny how it took the South Africans to develop this intriguing grape variety. Imagine Pinot Noir, now blend it with Beaujolais and add just a bit of pepper. Now take two plump steaks, toss them on the charcoal and season them with herbes de Provence." (Handwritten sign next to Backsberg 1997 Pinotage in LiquorWorld wine superstore in Franklin, Massachussetts. This was the only Pinotage in less than half a dozen SA wines stocked at this large store)

15 May 2004

Pinotage Impresses Pascalle

Stellenzicht's consultant from Bordeaux, Pascale Chatonnet, visited in the first week of May and was very impressed with what he tasted.

He 'loved' the Pinotage, describing it as 'classically elegant' while the Shiraz and Syrah got the usual nod of approval. The Pinotage was still bright purple, having not yet undergone malolactic fermentation, but the chewy fruit was still evident. Of the samples through 'malo' and in the barrel, that lovely Pinot Noir-ish strawberry character was wonderfully present.

13 May 2004

IWC 2004

South Africa won 10 Gold medals, 59 Silver, 141 Bronze and 249 Seals at the 2004 International Wine Challenge.

Pinotage got 3 Golds and 5 Silver medals (The other Golds went to Shiraz 3, Chenin Blanc 2, Chardonnay 2.)

The Gold medal winning Pinotages are
  • Beyerskloof Reserve 2002
  • Spier Private Collection 2002
  • Spier Private Collection 2001

Silver medal winning Pinotages are
  • Cape Province 2001
  • Domaine Brahms 2003
  • Stellenzicht Golden Triangle 2001
  • Horse Mountain 2003
  • Kaapzicht Estate Steytler 2001

Congratulations to them all.


10 May 2004

Recent Dinner Wines

Sentinal Reserve 2001
14% alc
Deep garnet red colour, attractive upfront fruits, red plums and redcurrants, and an uplift of tangy fruit acids with by integrated tannins on finish. Enjoyable.

Sumaridge 2002
Very dark purple, subdued nose, soft berry and cherry flavours, some tannins on mid palate, but with hot alcoholic finish. 250 cases were made, aged 11 months in new 225 litre barrels

Mont Destin 2001
14.5% alc
Dusty cherry nose; cherries and enticing sweet fruits on palate finishing
with enough tannins to match food.

Wildekrans Estate 2002
Soft perfumed nose, modern fruit-led wine with subtle complex balance of fruit, tannins and acids coming together to create a delicious experience. Long aftertaste.

03 May 2004

Porterville Progress

'Porterville is definitely on its way' said in March 2003. Since then their website at www.portwines.co.za is active and they're pulling in medals, including a bronze for their Pinotage 2002 Unfiltered Reserve. CEO Des Green says "in total we received 6 medals, 2 silver and four bronze at the first Starwine competition, held in Philadelphia. I want Porterville to compete and be recognised in the international arena."

Porterville were displaying at the London International Wine Fair 2004 where I was particularly taken with their Pinotage 2002 Unfiltered Reserve - Dark ruby with pink rim, soft perfumed nose, medium body, spicy red berries and medium finish. A really attractive drinking wine.

25 February 2004

Some Cranks! - Bon Cap Organic Winery

"Cranks wearing dungarees and smoking their ground cover crop may be a popular image of organic farmers", says Bon Cap’s Roelf du Preez, but “it is my own belief we do not inherit the land of our forefathers, but rather borrow it from our own children”.

If it hadn’t have been for the small Bon Cap sign pointing to this gravel track I would have turned back. The land from Worcester towards Robertson is desert with just a single track railway accompanying the road to relieve monotony. My instructions were to turn off at the sign, shortly after a cement factory. I was aiming for Bon Cap Organic Vineyards and Winery but there was no indication any crop would grow in this barren ground. I expected to see a fertile valley after I crested a low hill. But the valley was even dryer than the one I left, dotted with cacti and open patches of yellow sand while the rough gravel track still headed upwards. My car rental agreement strictly forbade driving off tarmac. I had counted the gravel path as an entrance rather than a road, but as kilometres clocked up without any indication of vineyards I was getting worried. At last I started descending and saw in the distance a line of bright green vegetation that turned out to be vineyards clustered along the Breede River.

Bon Cap’s modern winery has a rather disconcerting entrance. As you step into the shade of the winery tasting room you find yourself suspended over the barrel cellar on a glass floor. Roelf du Preeze makes the wine and his wife Michelle markets it. They are the seventh generation working the farm which used to deliver grapes to a co-operative. But they were not getting recognition for the quality of their grapes nor encouragement in their move to organic status, so in 2002 they separated to make and sell their own wines.

But what does organic mean? It depends on where you are. Michelle told me there is no legislation in South Africa to prevent anyone putting the word ‘organic’ on a wine bottle, while there are differing regulations for the EU and USA. Bon Cap wines carry an imprint showing they are certified organic by officially recognised Société Générale de Surveillance SA (SGS) company to meet both strict EU and USA regulations.

Bon Cap has been organic for five years but it wasn’t an overnight switch. Michelle said their philosophy is “whatever we take out we have to put back. We are farming not just for ourselves but for the generations that follow us. Roelf and I have always grown the best grapes we can - because the best grapes make the best wine - and growing organically produces the best grapes. We enjoy virtually perfect conditions for healthy vines with low rainfall and humidity. Vineyard infections are almost unknown, thus we don’t use chemical fertilizers, herbicides, or insecticides. And not spraying means we don’t use tractors and have no soil compaction. Everything is linked.” Being organic affects everything they do. Anything that affects the vines and soil must be organic. They want to use penguin manure but that has to be organically certified before use, otherwise Bon Cap could lose their certification. “Inspectors can come any time without warning” said Michelle, “we welcome that because we have nothing to hide.”

2002 saw their first vintage which entirely sold out, a remarkable achievement for a new winery. They now export to nine countries and have introduced a second, easy drinking, label “Ruins” using fruit from younger vines with less wood aging. Bon Cap red wines are aged in 80% new French oak barrels and their distinctive label has had a classy makeover. There is an appropriate new ladybird logo containing their initials and the Braille embossing remains. The back labels of both wines show the organic certificate but Michelle says she would have no compunction about removing organic references if it seemed the wines were being treated differently because of it. “Being organic is what we are and what we do,” she said, “not an add-on marketing tool. We don’t want to be in a niche category but to be judged against the world’s best.” There doesn’t seem much risk of that; Bon Cap wines have been selected by British Airways, their Pinotage was a Pinotage Top 10 finalist, and there is no shortage of silver and gold medals, the latest being two gold medals at Concours de Mondial Brussels 2004. Some cranks.

Stepping back into bright sunlight, it’s just a couple of metres to the edge of the vineyards, and facing the winery tasting room is a line of workers cottages. “An American visitor asked us why we didn’t move them as she thought they spoiled the view of the vineyards,” Michelle snorted “But they are as much a part of Bon Cap as the vines. Without our farm workers we wouldn’t be here.” At the end of vine rows a strange metal and blue plastic pole rises from the ground. “This is one of our moisture sensors” explains Michelle. “They feed data back to the winery so we know when to irrigate, and we get a complete historical record throughout the vineyards.”

And water is the key. They have an annual rainfall of just 125mm. What happens to vines without water is illustrated by a block on the edge of the farm that was no longer needed. After irrigation stopped they died, leaving rows of black dried wood without even one leaf showing. Narrow concrete channels funnel life-giving water from the Breede, a tea-coloured river snaking low between wide high banks. Michelle pointed out a wooden house perched high on the top of the river bank. “It’s on stilts because the river comes right up under it when it floods.” To prevent moisture loss and keep the soil cool Roelf planted lucern – a type of alfafa – as groundcover between the rows. “We were recommended to let sheep graze the lucern to keep it short,” laughs Michelle, “but that’s nonsense, as their woolly coats snag on vine spurs, rubbing off lanoline which inhibits vine growth.” The lucern consumes some water but this encourages vine roots to descend even deeper into the ground.

Touring around the 42 hectares of vineyards I was thrilled to see a colony of meerkats. These small burrowing animals stand upright on the rear feet, perfectly still except for their head which twist around scanning for danger. They became cult animals in the UK after appearing in a David Attenborough wildlife programme, generating several high rating programmes dedicated to them and they featured in some television commercials, and now I was seeing them in real life. Seeing my interest, Michelle told me about the other animals that pass through the vineyards. When she mentioned deer, I remarked that their vineyards were not fenced and several wineries in other countries had told me how vineyards had been wrecked by deer eating the shoots until fenced. “But what groundcover do they have?” she asked. “Animals much prefer to eat the tender lucern than our vines.”

Bon Cap is only 50 kilometres from the sea, and at night it is cooler than Stellenbosch as cold sea air is pushed into the valley through a gap in the surrounding mountains. “It’s not always as hot as this,” Michelle remarked. “We’ve had frost that killed vine buds, and we’ve had ankle deep snow.” This was hard to imagine as summer sun beat down over peaceful vineyards with only the background sound of nature. The nearest tarmac road is seven kilometres away back along the twisting gravel path I arrived on. There is another, longer, way out of the valley that involves crossing the Breede and needs a four-wheel drive vehicle. The valley’s name is Eilandia and I did feel I was on an island cut-off from the rest of the world, although the name dates from islands caused by the Breede flooding before it was tamed by dams.

Back in the winery, Michelle opened some wines.

The Ruins
Organic Pinotage 2003

13.5% alc
This had been bottled three weeks previously and was not yet released. Bright purple colour, light bodied with fruity raspberry flavours and a tannic finish.

Bon Cap

Organic Pinotage 2003
13.5% alc
Also bottled three weeks previously and not yet released. Garnet colour with a purple rim, fuller bodied than the Ruins with plump rounded fruits-of-the-forest flavours woven with structured tannins and a lingering dry finish. “We pick only on phenolic ripeness,” said Michelle. We use Balling as an indicator, but we pick on taste”.

Bon Cap
Organic Pinotage 2002

13.5% alc
Soft flowery nose with coffee undertones. Delicious ripe inviting fruit flavours, soft blackberries and cherries and a soft spicy finish.

Bon Cap
Petit Verdot 2003

13.5% alc
Tasted as a barrel sample, will be released as a single varietal. Intense glass staining colour with powerful fruit and spicy bacon flavours, and a deliciously silky mouth feel.

Other varietal wines made by Bon Cap are Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Viognier (their only white), while Merlot, Pinot Noir, Touriga Nacional and Tannat varieties are also grown.

I was sad to leave Bon Cap in its quiet valley by the Breede. Michelle had remarked they intended putting markers along the twisting gravel track telling visitors they were on the correct road and how many kilometres they had still to travel. Perhaps on the reverse she should put ‘Do you really want to leave Eilandia?’

They have a guesthouse for those who answer in the negative.

15 February 2004

Laibach Punches Down and Tees Up

If you have scuba gear and want little extra pocket money then head towards Laibach Vineyards. They’re excavating a reservoir below their winery building, leaving a tiny island which will be grassed over as a golf green. Winemaker Francois van Zyl intends relaxing during breaks by teeing off from the winery’s upper floor observation terrace. Until he gets his eye in there should be rich pickings retrieving lost balls.

I found Francois pushing down the cap on fermenting Pinotage. For this vintage he introduced small open plastic fermenters, enabling regular manual push downs, part of his move to downscale winemaking. “Next year we’ll have a grape sorting table,” he told me. Francois has been at Laibach five years and he intends consolidating his reputation there. “If you make wine in Pomerol why would you want to move to Bergerac?” he asks in a reference to recent rounds of winemakers changing address. “You have to think where you want to be in ten years time.”

Francois drew a glass of his 2003 Pinotage from its barrel. It will be bottled in June or July ready for entry to 2004 Pinotage Top 10 Competition. It is chock full of soft fruits and eucalyptus and, although it had already spent 12 months in cask, had very soft tannins. Definitely one to watch.

I had already tasted the 2000 and 2001 Pinotage in Laibach’s tasting room, one of very few using large fine wine glasses.

Laibach Pinotage 2000 14.5% alc.
Dark black with red rim. Sweet soft fruits and uplifting spices with good structure. Some tannins and a long lasting dry finish.
Laibach Pinotage 2001 14.5%
Light bright ruby red with purple rim, Very soft, almost a cordial sweetness and medium length, with tannins developing on the finish. Enjoyable

“Pinotage is very popular in Germany and England,” said Francois. “We can sell all we make.” I can believe it. I left him looking at scars in a Chardonnay vineyard that will one day be a reservoir and his single hole golf course.

Laibach is located on the R44 between Stellenbosch and Paarl.