12 March 2007

Parkerized Pinotage?

Marianne Estate Pinotage label Robert Parker is reputed to love the style of wines made by Michel Rolland. What Parker loves he awards big scores to. High Parker scores sell wines and their price soars thus wineries around the world engage Rolland as a wine making consultant in order to make 'Parker' wines. Rolland’s reputation is built on Bordeaux varieties but if you want to know what a Parkerized Pinotage tastes like, mosey along to Marianne Estate, just south of Paarl on the R44.

Michel Rolland is a friend of M. Dauriac, who owns Marianne in addition to estates in Bordeaux, and Rolland enjoys staying in the farm’s luxury guest houses.

Marianne wines include Merlot, Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon and Sauvignon Blanc, two Bordeaux blends and well as Pinotage, all of which I tasted. The wine I thought best, though was their 2004 Chenin Blanc. Unfortunately this is the only vintage since the vines have sadly been replaced.

Wines are differentiated by the colour used on the labels, which bear a stylised image of Marianne, the iconic French revolutionary symbol

Alone of the red wines, the Pinotage is fermented in stainless steel. 2004 was their first bottling, and the only Pinotage currently available but I was also able to taste the 2005 and 2006 from barrel.

The 2004 (68R = 9.25USD/4.75GBP) Pinotage has a dense garnet very young looking but not particularly clear colour and a floral lavender nose. I found it had a strange finish -- sharp volatile stewed, almost burnt. I noted it was ‘interesting’ but I did not like this wine.

Much more to my taste was the 2005, back in tank prior to bottling after barrel ageing in old oak. It has good fruit, depth and soft tannins.

And the 2006, which was in its tenth month in old oak barrels, was also very approachable. Good berry fruits and structure, some grip on finish. I’d like to taste this wine once it is bottled.

For me, there was a very steep improvement over the three vintages, and this farm is definitely one to watch as its 8-15 year old Pinotage vines mature and Rolland gets to grip with Pinotage.

Many thanks to Franck Malassigne of Marianne for the tasting, and to Jeanette Stals for making the arrangements.

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