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."

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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