21 February 2007

Red Leaf and Green Pinotage

Beyerskloof Winery has just opened a new visitor centre and restaurant, and being the home of Pinotage, the variety features throughout the Red Leaf restaurant’s menu. The signboard at the entrance announced it was the home of the Pinotage Burger and it seemed churlish to order anything else.

When I arrived yesterday owner/winemaker Beyers Truter himself was behind the bar prising the cork from a bottle of fizz. He poured glasses of deep pink sparkling Pinotage wine and pressed them in our hands. I don’t think you’ll find Beyers staffing the bar on a daily basis – but yesterday was special because the New Zealand Crusaders Rugby XV, in South Africa for the tri-nation Super 14 match, had taken over the rear patio and as an ex-rugby player himself, Beyers wanted to make them feel at home.

But Beyers found time to show us his new cellar, built under the restaurant.. There’s a lobby filled with Beyers memorabilia, his political election posters, framed rugby shirts, awards and photos galore leading into bins containing thousands of library wines resting in a welcoming cool 16 degrees.

Beyerskloof, with its red Pinotage leaf logo, is the single largest brand of Pinotage wine, and has just released an amazing 1.5 million bottles of their standard 2006 Pinotage. How to make wine in such quantities at such a keen price (33 Rand at the farm) and maintain quality is Beyers’ skill. Beyer’s doesn’t agree with machine harvesting. “There’s people out there crying for work”, he says. “If I need to harvest, I can get 100 pickers straight away. And it doesn’t matter if its Saturday or Sunday – they want to work.” It is not just harvesting. “We took fifty people and trained them to prune and layer vines and they did a perfect job. I gave each of them a certificate that they can show to any wine farm in the future. It says Beyerskloof trained them and that they can do the job. It’s little enough, but it helps.”

Beyers isn’t resting on his laurel. “You can’t stand still’” he says. Coming soon is a white Pinotage in the style of the light Portuguese Vino Verde, (the green wine, as in fresh and young) – he’ll be calling it Pino-Verde. "I'll give it a little petillance," he says. And a serious Methode Cap Classique sparkler is on the way.

Boot Camp

Beyers tells me he is planning on a winemakers boot camp where anyone who wants to learn how to make wine will be welcome. "I'll set up some tents, they'll be in teams working and sleeping together. They'll do everything - starting the yeasts, crushing etc and we'll mark the teams each day with prizes for the winning team. It'll be like army training," Beyers laughs, and reminisces about his days in the Army.

The new tasting room and restaurant were designed by his wife Esmé and took a year to build. Its colour is the pale grey of polished concrete, livened by clever lighting and stunning photographs of the farm, and featuring Beyerskloof's red Pinotage leaf logo.
Pinotage Burger

Back in the restaurant, my enormous Pinotage Burger (right) arrived. It is a thick ground lamb meat patty on chargrilled aubergine and pepper, topped with Pinotage cooked onions and enclosed in a large fresh bread roll, with some tasty huge fried potato wedges on the side and a garnish of salad. And, currently on offer, each burger comes with two free 25cl mini bottles of 2005 Pinotage. We saved those for later and enjoyed a 2001 Pinotage Reserve. This was a Top 10 winner in 2002, and had matured superbly, with sweet fruit at the front over soft oak and a long long finish. I wish I could pour a glass of this for every Pinotage sceptic.

With a Pinotage Brandy Tart, with a side of purple Pinotage flavoured ice-cream I was replete.

There’s a new 'must visit' destination on the wine route: Beyerskloof and the Red Leaf.


  1. Anonymous13:01

    That Pinotage burger sure looks good. I think I'll use my wings and fly myself over there to experience this intersting meal. You know that Beyers and a famous chef will be cooking up a storm @ KKNK? Will you be at this Afrikaanse fees?? Winefly will cruze around during the last week of the festival.

  2. Hi Winefly -- we can lunch together maybe?

    I have no idea what KKNK is

  3. Anonymous13:13

    KKNK is the ABSA Klein Karoo Nationale Kunstefees...Afrikaans musiek :-) I went to Beyerkloof on Saturday - just for tasting ....Really nicly done with the revamp and the restaurant was packed!! Going there for lunch with the girls on Thursday.

    When and where did you have in mind...when are you back in SA?