13 December 2006

Pinotage Esthetics

We all know a glass of Pinotage can make us feel better, but it seems that Pinotage can also make us look better. Got wrinkles around your eyes? Rub Pinotage in and voila! And at just $26 a tube of South African, Pinotage-enriched hydrating eye gel saves you having to open a prized bottle.

The New York Observer reports that Manhattan's first vinotherapy salon -- Delluva Vinotherapy Day Spa has just opened. Spa owner Diane Sydney Hanson is a licensed esthetician.

I didn't know that one needed to be licensed to practice esthetics, but apparently in the USA esthetics means "the non-medical care of the skin." And according to this site "The esthetician’s fingers convey strength, trust, and knowledge. When an esthetician is touching someone, there is a bonding, a caring, expressed that is missing in so many lives today."

If it is all the same to you, I think I'll just take my Pinotage orally......

12 December 2006

Meerkat Pinotage

I wondered how long it would be before the popular Meerkat would appear on a winelabel. Now Welbedacht winery has introduced Meerkat Chenin Blanc and Pinotage. Neil Pendock said of the maiden vintage 2005 " This juicy Pinotage offers you the sensual extravaganza of mocca chocolate, sweet plums and soft vanilla."

I am indebted to Werner Rix of Wine Routes of South Africa
www.wineroutes-sa.co.za for news of these wines in his regular newsletter, which also contains the titbit that Domein Doornkraal have produced a sweet blend of Pinotage and Tinta Barocca which they named Pinta.

Good name - but I can foresee amusing confusions with visitors from Britain where Pinta means a pint of milk

07 December 2006

Horton to release Varietal Pinotage

Horton VineyardsHorton Vineyards, in Orange County, Virginia, will be releasing their first varietal Pinotage in February 2007.

Up to now it has played its part in their blends. Neil Glaser of Horton told me "It has become one of our favorite grapes in the vineyard, producing some world class fruit... hey, the wine is not bad either."

Neil says "We planted our first Pinotage grapes in 1998... we have been using it as a blend grape in our Syrah... the 2002 Syrah has 17% Pinotage... we will continue to blend these grapes while making a varietal wine out of Pinotage. The release in February will be a 2005."

20 November 2006


Stormhoek have been stirring up a lot of publicity through their blogging. They sent some free bottles to bloggers (people who keep a public diary on the internet) and received newspaper inches galore discussing their revolutionary marketing in return .

However I really did not like their Pinotage when I tasted it at the London Wine Show: it was obviously faulty, so I have been intrigued to see it gaining good reviews from tasters who I respect and I was flabbergasted when this low priced wine won the International Wine and Spirit Competition 2006 Trophy for Best Pinotage. (Previous winners were Bellingham Kanonkop, L'Avenir, Neethlingshof, Simonsig, and Kaapzicht's Steytler.)

So I picked up a bottle of the winning 2005 vintage at the supermarket. It is closed with a screwcap (hooray) and has a 'freshness indicator' on the back label saying that it should be consumed before January 2008.

This wine definitely isn't the same one that I tasted at the wine show. No faults here. There are some lovely rich ripe berry fruits, some spice, medium finish. This is a wonderfully drinkable wine.

Is it the worlds best? Well there is no doubt that it holds that title from the IWSC :)

Interestingly, the Stormhoek blog says this 2005 vintage was made for the US market and "Unfortunately for our friends elswhere, it’s only available in the USA". Well, it's in the UK Waitrose supermarkets at £5.99 ($11.50).

11 November 2006

Pinotage Pioneer

A Pinotage is the very first wine to come from the brand new South Africa wine region of KwaZulu-Natal , far north of the Cape winelands. The Stables Pinotage Rosé is the first wine to be certified from outside the Cape and bears the Wine of Origin KwaZulu Natal appellation which had to be created especially before the wine could receive certification.

The Stables Wine Estate, owned by Tiny and Judy van Niekerk, made the wine from grapes grown in nearby Greytown. Their own vines, which were planted in 1995, are expected to be ready for production in 1998.

The wine is called Clariet to indicate that it is fuller bodied than the usual rosé. The winery say of the wine

"This Pinotage Clariet has been produced from the finest KZN grapes. After 6 months of skin contact the free-run juice was barrel fermented in 2nd fill French oak barrels, which has brought out its elegant ruby colour and allowed for the alluring aromas of strawberries and cherries to develop. The wine is crisp and refreshing, packed with fruity flavours and finishes off with soft butterscotch and caramel.

12.5 % abv, price 65 ZAR."

08 November 2006

New Zealand Pinotage

There is some great Pinotage being made in New Zealand, although unfortunately little is exported.

New Zealander Sue Courtney writes that "Pinotage, the South African grape variety, was introduced into New Zealand by pioneering winemaker, Corbans, who ....... planted the first Pinotage vineyard at Whenuapai on the northern outskirts of Auckland, and the first wine was made in 1964.

"The variety was quick to catch on with the handful of winemakers, especially those in Auckland, for the thick skins of the grapes were able to stand up to the region's humidity as well as offering resistance to diseases.

"However, the quality of the early wines was variable.

"Now, since the late 1990's, Pinotage has been undergoing a revival with new clones, developed in South Africa, becoming available. The grape is grown in most regions, from the most northerly to the most southern vineyards, although in tiny quantities at the southern extremes. And there are some very good examples indeed."

Read the full story on her webzine, with some detailed facts and figures at http://www.wineoftheweek.com/stories/0101pinotage.html

Sue has put together a collection of her tasting notes on ten years of NZ Pinotage from at http://www.wineoftheweek.com/tastings/pinotage.html

03 November 2006

Doolhof Signs On

Therese Swart (pictured right) is holding a bottle of her new Signatures of Doolhof Pinotage.
Therese Swart
Therese is the head winemaker at Doolhof Estate, a new winery in Wellington. "We're in a valley between two mountains," she told me. "Our vineyards are planted at different heights and aspects -- they're very different. That is our signature."

The 2005 Signatures of Doolhof Pinotage was very dark with a red rim. It had the most attractive sweet upfront fruit followed by a depth of red berry flavours and some intriguing coffee tones. Therese said the wine had been aged almost a year in 80% French/10% American oak barrels of which 70% were new.

Doolhof means labyrinth, and wine grapes were first planted in the valley in 1728 until devastated by phylloxera in the 1890’s. One hundred years later in 1995, Doonhof Estate planted their first vineyards to Bordeaux varieties, plus Shiraz, Chardonnay and Pinotage.

Previously the farm sold its grapes to other wineries, but they wanted to make their own wines and this 2005 Pinotage is one of their first offerings. Now they have built their own facilities on the farm and registered as an Estate in 2005.

Although a name new to me, Doolhof have already enjoyed success in international competitions, including a Gold at the 2007 Michelangelo International Wine Awards for the 2005 Signatures Pinotage and a Double Gold at Veritas 2006 for the 2006 Signatures Sauvignon Blanc.

Therese Swart took up her position as Head Winemaker & Director of Wine at Doolhof in 2004. Previously she was making wine for Groot Constantia Estate which she joined after studying wine making at The University of Stellenbosch.

Doolhof Estate's owner Dennis J Kerrison told me “Since the commissioning of our winery we plan to focus on elegant, fruity Pinotage expressing the Doolhof terroir. However, we do feel the richness of our fruit does give us options in type of Pinotage wine we can produce.”

I was really impressed with my first taste of Doolhof’s wine and look forward to enjoying a bottle with dinner. This is a winery of which we will be hearing a lot more, and one I intend visiting in February when I am next in the Cape.

02 November 2006

Tell me about Pinotage

That's the question posed by a reader of the Monterey Herald. The answer, from George Edwards (owner and operator of WineMarket wine store) is:

"This is a red wine associated almost exclusively with South Africa, where, in 1925, Cinsault, a simple red grape of the Rhone Valley of France, was crossed with Pinot Noir to create Pinotage. Generally speaking, it is a rather simple and rustic red but I have also sampled wines that show more of the Pinot round texture and, in fact, my first experience back in the early 1990s was with Kanonkop, which paired up pretty well with swordfish, of all things.

More recently I found enough textural finesse in the Golden Kahn bottling, which got along just fine with pork. I've probably been exposed to less than a dozen takes on Pinotage but clearly my favorite to date, one that delivers more depth and flesh and makes a delicious blueberry and sweet oak statement, is the Simonsig Stellenbosch Red Hill 2003 ($28)."

I'd agree with him on Simonsig Redhill, and also Pinotage matching well with swordfish. I recall myself how well Wamakersvallei 'La Cave' worked with fish in Stellenbosch's Fish Market restaurant.

As for Golden Kaan -- this is a succesful brand co-owned by KWV and a German company designed for the German market. And I have to say that I don't recall if I have ever tasted it :)

Read George's full article here .

01 November 2006

Writer's Block on offer

Writer's Block label This delicious Pinotage from Flagstone is currently available from the winery discounted by 33%. The 2004 which usually costs 149 ZAR can be had for just 98 ZAR.

Owner/winemaker Jack Bruce says of this wine "This is classic Flagstone Writer's Block - more Pinot Noir than Pinotage. Redolent, vibrant red with purple edges.
Bruce Jack with Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape
Intense, concentrated aromas of wild blueberry and ripe cherry supported by a background frame of subtle oak aromas. On the palate the wine is ripe and generous with a core of black berry, preserved plum and youngberry. Match with Springbok Loin, Ostrich with Madagascan Pepper Sauce and Char Grilled Steak with Sweet Potato Chips."

And if you want the background on how Writer's Block got its name -- the story behind that label is in my book "Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape." -- pictured above right with Bruce Jack.

29 October 2006

Môreson 2003

This was a winner in 2004 Top 10 Competition. I had several bottles which I've been drinking over the past year and have been very pleased with it. I'm now down to my last two bottles after opening one last night. This wine is drinking really well now, it was a real delight.

Beautiful rich colour and opulent up-front damson flavours. There are some complex undercurrents of tobacco and a slight pinot-noir like earthiness. This is a wine that develops, and I really should have opened it earlier -- or maybe decanted it. Something to remember for next time.

Môreson -- the name means morning sun -- are in the Franschhoek Valley which is not an area famous for Pinotage, but Môreson have shown the variety can do well there.

Môreson also use Pinotage in their white MCC sparkler, and such was the quality of the juice they bottled some as a dry still white wine. Unfortunately the Wine & Spirit Board wouldn’t approve this for sale, since they reckoned a white Pinotage didn't meet varietal characteristics. But I tasted some at the farm from an unlabelled bottle and it does make a crisp fruity wine.

Môreson web site at www.moreson.co.za

27 October 2006

Pinotage Top 10 - 2006

How time flies. Last year I was one of the judges of the annual Pinotage Top 10 2005 competition.

This years judges were Guido Francque (food and wine connoisseur from Belgium and honorary member of the Pinotage Association), Janåke Johansson (Swedish wine consultant and trader), Charles Hopkins (cellar master and vice-chairman of the Pinotage Association), Neil Pendock (wine writer), Sue van Wyk (Cape Wine Master from Australia) and Dave Hughes (international wine judge/writer from South Africa).

The upward trend in the quality of Pinotage wines continues, and it is really exciting to see new names challenge the established wineries. This year, half of the Top 10 are first time winners (marked with an asterisk). The remaining five are repeat winners. Kanonkop Estates seventh win brings it level now with top winner L'Avenir Estate.

  • Allée Bleue Pinotage 2005
  • Boland Cellar Winemakers Selection Pinotage 2004*
  • Camberley Pinotage 2005*
  • Clos Malverne Pinotage Reserve 2003
  • Kanonkop Pinotage 2004
  • Morewag Pinotage 2002*
  • Pulpit Rock Pinotage 2004*
  • Stellenzicht Golden Triangle 2005
  • Tukulu Papkuilsfontein Pinotage 2004
  • Wellington Cellar Pinotage Reserve 2003*

I remember being impressed with Camberley's first ever vintage, 2001, which my friend Keith Prothero had found pressed on me.

The runners up contains, despite my constant efforts, a wines I have not come across yet (Dornier) and name that I have never even heard of (Fantail). I'll haveto hunt them out next February in the Cape.

Congratulations to all of them, and also the judges. It is difficult to decide a winner when there are so many good wines now being made.

16 October 2006

Fairview Pinotage - Washington Post's Wine of the Week

The Washington Post picked Fairview's Pinotage as its wine of the week on 11 October 2005. Paul Lukacs said "This young pinotage constitutes a fine, reasonably priced introduction to the grape and wine. Its dark plum and blackberry flavors are appealing by themselves, but the wine becomes really interesting once its deep, earthy aftertaste comes to the fore. Medium-bodied, with relatively soft tannins, it nonetheless tastes rich and concentrated." and he suggests decanting it an hour before drinking. See

12 October 2006

Diemersfontein Pinotage -- now it's the other way round!!

Every one who tastes Diemersfontein's Pinotage remarks on its incredible dense coffee and chocolate flavours. Of course, there isn't really any coffee or chocolate in the wine but it sure tastes like it.

Now Diemersfontein have taken the concept and turned it around. They have just launched dark Belgian Chocolates with a coffee and Pinotage truffle filling. They are delicious!!

And even better with a glass of Pinotage!

11 October 2006

Riebeek Cellar Reserve Pinotage 2005

Riebeek's Winemaker Zakkie Bester with marketing manager Mareli Viljoen Zakkie Bester (pictured right with Mareli Viljoen) is winemaker at Riebeek Cellars, a co-operative that has the good luck to be situated in the Swartland -- an area proving to be one of the best for full flavoured red wines.

I've met Zakkie several times over the years and he is always keen to show me his Pinotage -- and I'm always glad to taste it.

The 2005 Reserve, that he is holding in the picture, is the current release and it is really very very nice. It is a rich ruby red colour, with upfront berry and plum fruits and some vanilla in the mid-palate. It's soft and mouth filling and there's enough acidity on the finish to match well with food.

Zakkie tells me that half the wine was fermented in 2nd fill 300 litre French oak barrels, in which they also went malolactic fermentation and then aged for 6 months, then blended back with the half that was made in stainless steel in order to produce a subtly oaked wine.

Riebeek are a winery that hasn't (yet) been claimed by fickle fashion and so their wines continue to be reasonably priced and are well worth a try when you see them.

Riebeek Cellar Reserve Pinotage 2005 14.5% abv, retail price £8/$16, my score 89+

Zakkie also showed me his 2006 Pinotage Rose. This was had a bluish tinge to its pink colour (maybe the effect of flourescent lighting). It had a strawberry bubblegum nose and strawberries came through on the flavour; soft and off dry (5 grammes of sugar per litre). Not one for me, but certain to be popular with those wanting an easy-to-drink pink.

Zakkie said he picked the fruit a lot earlier than the grapes used in the red wines, and this wine was made from only the free run juice.

Riebeek Cellars Pinotage Rose 2006 13% abv

08 October 2006

Laibach 2003 Pinotage

Intense dark garnet/purple colour. My first impression is of smokey bacon over ripe damsons and black cherries. There's a complexity of flavours, but over a core of tannins that are more prominent than I remember.

I think this wine is going through a dumb stage where the prominence of the fruit has dipped from my earlier tastes.

With a little more age I expect the tannins will soften and allow more of the fruit to shine through. All the same, it was a most enjoyable and drinkable wine that all to0 quickly emptied the bottle, leaving us wanting more.

I highly rate Laibach as a winery, although unfortunately we don't often see their wines on sale in the UK as they mostly go to Germany. In particular -- as well as their Pinotage -- their Bordeaux blends Dogleg and the organic Ladybird are worth looking out for.

07 October 2006

Lusciousness and Decay - or a Pile of Old Pinotage?

After fermenting red grapes the new wine is pressed from the grape skins which are usually recycled back to the vineyards as fertiliser. But at Windmuel they have been piled high for an art project.

Artist Berni Searle has filmed herself "precariously on top of a huge mound of crushed red grape skins that have been spurted out from an overhead funnel. En masse the grape skins form a sensuous reddish purple backdrop, simultaneously evoking lusciousness and decay.

Shot mainly in slow motion, at dusk and dawn, the work has a contemplative dreamlike quality which is disrupted by an unexpected series of 'falls'. While the work alludes to the traditional process of crushing grapes with one's feet, this ritual enactment becomes futile since the juice of the grapes has already been extracted, pointing to a more symbolic/evocative reading of ideas relating to abundance, excess and vulnerability. "


06 October 2006

Ontario's first Pinotage vintage

Peter May harvesting Ontario's very first Pinotage This is me last week picking the very first Pinotage grapes harvested in Ontario, Canada.

I was at Fieldmouse Vineyards , owned by Peter and Susan Laidlaw. Peter planted a row of Pinotage five years ago; these vines have now grown for four vintages and now they're ready for picking.

The bunches were firm and full with even ripening and no unripe green grapes (see picture on right), no insect or bird damage and only some insignificant botrytis.
Pinotage Grapes at Fieldmouse

Brix was 23 (giving a potential alcohol level of 12.5%) while Peter's Pinot Noir was 18-20 and Peter reckoned his Pinot Noir would need another week before they were ready to be picked.

Peter said "Based on the grape quality and early ripening I'm pretty determined to put in at least 2000 Pinotage vines now."

Fieldmouse vineyards is on the ridge above the town of Vineland. It's on a crest and you can see Lake Ontario from his vineyards. Currently they are mostly planted with Concord and Fredonia hybrid vines that he inherited and which he is removing.
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