26 June 2007

Book Signing, Sat 30 June in Kettering, Northants

I will be signing copies of my book Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape at Waterstones in Kettering on Saturday 30 June.

Waterstones will be supplying wine and cheese and no doubt there will be a Pinotage or two ;)

It will be great to see you there.....

See http://tinyurl.com/2xexh9 for details or phone 01536 481 575 to book

Cheese & Wine Evening
with Peter F May
author of
Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape
Saturday, 30 June 2007,
6:00PM - 7:00PM
Tickets £3.50,
available from the store.

Peter will be signing copies of his book 'Marilyn Merlot and the Naked Grape' and advising us on how to choose a winning bottle for any occasion. This is the launch of our new programme of customer events in Kettering.
Further details: 01536 481 575

25 June 2007

Striking a blow against conventional tyranny!

Martyn Mills is a man after my own heart. This is what he says on his website:-

"The most important reason to drink Pinotage is because it is enjoyable. Another is that it is red. Somebody once said that the first duty of wine is to be red. That it has health benefits when consumed in moderation is a bonus. Study after study has shown that the moderate consumption of red wine could be beneficial to your health. Red wine contains high concentrates of resveratol, an anti-oxidant that shows abilities to reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease.

And why Pinotage rather than other red wines?

Because it is different, because it is uniquely South African, because it allows you to strike a blow against the tyranny of the conventional."

South African Martyn and his Chinese business partner Liu Lian have created Martyns Red, a wine made especially for the Chinese market. It is 50% Pinotage, a variety Martyn thinks is suited to the Chinese palate, blended with Shiraz, Merlot & Cabernet Sauvignon.

Martyns web-site is at http://www.mcm-china.com/

22 June 2007

Nosing Diemersfontein

The Nose is a welcoming restaurant and wine bar in the Green Point area of Cape Town. I was impressed with their chatty and wide ranging wine list which changes every month and offers a good selection of wines by the glass.

I started with a glass of the amazing Springfield Estate Special Cuvee Sauvignon Blanc 2006 while I browsed Nose's informative wine list . There I read that of all the wines they sold during 2006, the best-seller of the year by far was a Pinotage. Despite the negative comments we keep reading, people are voting with their money and they are choosing Pinotage.

Which one?

The Nose's People's Pinotage was Diemersfontein's coffee and chocolate stunner.

So, what else could I do but order a glass of that to accompany my Nose Burger which was much better than its name - "200g of the finest ground beef mixed with our secret herbs and spices and flame-grilled to your liking. Served on a fresh-baked roll with homemade pickled cucumbers, lettuce, tomato and chunky potato wedges."

They were now serving Diemersfontein's 2006 vintage (35R a glass), and you know what? It was scrummy --but you don't need me to tell you that.

The attentive waiter asked if I wanted a coffee to follow. I declined. How could ordinary coffee follow that wine?

20 June 2007

2007 Pinotage Vintage - One of the Best

The annual new Pinotage Vintage Tasting was held on Thursday 14 June at Allée Bleue outside Franschhoek. Wines from different areas were selected from these wineries: Perdeberg, Wellington, Rooiberg, Neethlingshof Estate, Stanford Hill, Simonsig, L'Avenir, Riebeeck Kelder, Klawer, Brandvlei, Stellenbosch Hills, Fairview and Du Toitskloof.

The wines were all a work in progress, being either tank or barrel samples, but the event gives the first opportunity to judge the overall quality of the new vintage. Charles Hopkins, vice-chairman of the Pinotage Association, presented the tasting. He said “The wines that were tasted came from various wine-producing areas, with diverse climates and soils, and are aimed at assorted local and international markets, from the lighter style for high-quality drinking wines to the more complex wines."

"My overall conclusion," said Charles, " based on the 2007 Pinotage vintage we tasted, is that the characteristic Pinotage fruitiness was in general strongly present, in addition to a better balance between wood-maturation and fruit-driven properties. This year’s wines also show younger than last year’s and need to develop considerably before they can be bottled and released. It’s something to look forward to!”

Francois Naudé, award-winning winemaker who is famous for his Pinotage made when at L'Avenir Estate, rates 2007 as one of the best four vintages ofthe past decade.

Pinotage is South Africa’s second-largest volume of bulk export wine, after Chenin Blanc, (7 .1M litres from May 2006 to April 2007).

Co-owner, and cellarmaster of Simonsig, Johan Malan said that their 2005 Pinotage sold out some time ago and that there was already huge demand for the 2006 vintage. “Pinotage is a top-seller, so it must be in fashion. That’s the reality of the market,” says Johan.

Since I couldn't attend the tasting I am grateful to Minette (WineFly) Willard for letting me post her impressions. Her favourite wines were:-

Fairview Pinotage 2007 - Again the alcohol is quite high in this wine and you can also taste the alcohol but it is not too overwhelming. There is fruits and coffee on the nose and this wine is more a classical pinotage and will make a good wine in the longterm. Also one of my favourites

Klawer Co-op Birdfield Pinotage 2007 - It is a big and complex wine, with flavours of prunes and bananas coming forward. Farmyard was also detected on the nose. This wine will do well once matured and will do good in the UK and Europe market as a commercial wine.

L'Avenir Pinotage 2007 - This wine also really stood out for me. It is a complex and well-balanced wine with a low yield of 5 ton/ha. They only used French Oak and 85% was bushvines. It has been in the barrels for 4.5 months at the time of the tasting. They keep the wine on the wood for 12 months in total.

Perdeberg SAAM Pinotage 2007 - Mocca Cappichino flavours stood out on this medium-bodied wine. Fruitiness is also detected with a silky finish and tannins on the palate.

Rooiberg Reserve Pinotage 2007 - First Fill 100% French Oak was used. There is smokeyness and a hint of perfume on the nose, with earthy mineral-ness that lingers. It has a straight finish. This wine is a good pinotage to me, the wood compliments the grapes/flavours. One of the better ones.

Stanford Hills Jackson's Pinotage 2007 - This wine has ripe plums, camembert cheese flavours and is fruit driven. Wood that was used is Hungarian & French Oak and it pushes the tannins to the front of your tongue. Good balanced wine and opens up when left for a while.

Read Minettes full report of the tasting at http://wineflyselection.blogspot.com/2007/06/pinotage-tasting-of-2007-vintage.html

Pictured above at the tasting are Charles Hopkins, vice-chairman of the Pinotage Association, and Debbie Burden of Simonsig with Pieter Carstens of Perdeberg (rear left) and Eduard Malherbe of Rooiberg (rear right) . Picture courtesy ML Communications

19 June 2007

No Pinotage at Vinexpo

There is no South African Pinotage on show at this years Vinexpo in Bordeaux, France. That is because there is no South African wine at the international wine trade show which started on 17 June and is due to run till Thursday.
French customs impounded the South African consignment. And although they released it yesterday (Monday) instead of going to Bordeaux, its being trucked to Antwerp across the border in Belgium to get fresh paperwork.

Trade paper Harpers reports a WOSA representative telling France 24 “This is a disaster. The cost of attending the show this year was almost US$300,000 (£151,139) , taking into account the cost of the stand, accommodation for 45 people, flights, and the cost of sending the wine samples. What is not possible however is to estimate the lost business."
The reasons for the wines being impounded are still unclear.

18 June 2007

Cullinan Award for Welbedacht 'Barrel Select' 2005

I am beginning to wonder just how well I know Pinotage. Another competition result is announced and the best Pinotage award goes to a wine that I've never heard of.

The Juliet Cullinan Wine Connoisseur's Awards is judged by the Cape Wine Masters "who understand the nuances and the local consumers' preferences better than any panel in South Africa".

Welbedacht 'Barrel Select' 2005 won the Pinotage award. Runners up were Mooiplas 2003 and Groot Constantia Pinotage 2005.

According to wine.co.za , the 2005 was Welbedacht's maiden vintage of Pinotage, which, its says, "displays a seductive elegance more reminiscent of New World Pinot Noir than old-school Pinotage. Powerful red berry fruit, rather than droopy plums and banana, are interlaced with subtle hints of tomato puree and floral undertones. Although a dry wine our wood selection supplies a palatable sweetness with wafts of coconut and vanilla, followed by a delightful lingering sensation of mocca, cinnamon and pepper. Intense but elegant, with a superbly long finish. The balance of this wine allows us to enjoy its current flirtatious liveliness, but will soften pleasurably for the next three to five years."

Congratulations to Welbedacht, Mooiplas and Groot Constantia (who are on a roll with their 2005 Pinotage.)

But I'm not the only one to be unaware of this wine. Welbedacht's own web-site doesn't list Pinotage among the wines they make.

16 June 2007

Pink Pinotage sweeps all before it

The Pink Pinotage bandwagon sweeps all before it.

In today's Daily Telegraph (UK) there's a page of wines selected for what their wine writer Jonathan Ray calls "the capricious season that we call an English summer."

He lists four pink wines, "two still and two sparkling - that deserve a special mention with summer in mind." And half of them are Pinotages -- Flagstone's 2006 Semaphore Rosé and Simonsig's Brut Rosé NV fizz. (The Telegraoh says NV, but in fact the wine is vintage 2005, tho' the year is not very clear)

Who'd have thunk it?

15 June 2007

Pinotage on Tap

For the third year running Diemersfontein is holding their popular Pinotage on Tap events in September to celebrate the release of the new vintage of the one and only 'coffee and chocolate' Pinotage. The new 2007 vintage Pinotage will be 'on tap' in large oak barrels. (pictured)

As well as Pinotage on Tap on the Diemersfontein estate on Saturday 29 September, it will be held at Casalinga Ristorante, Muldersdrift in Guateng on Sunday 9 September.

They say "we have got some great entertainment lined up for you this year - aside from the new vintage Pinotage flowing 'on tap', Johan our Chef has conjured up some inventive canapes and Pinotage chocolate slammers. We have thought up new challenges focused on Pinotage - golfers can try and hit a wine barrel in one, or you can try and pin the Pinotage on the vine - Great Pinotage prizes to be won ! And to keep you on your feet and in the mood for a great experience the likes of the Parlotones, Ama Ambush and Fly Paperjet in Cape Town and Siphokazi and Prime Circle in Gauteng."

Next year maybe Pinotage on Tap in London??????

14 June 2007

Pink Pinotage

Pink wine is now fashionable thanks, apparently, to US rappers taking a fancy to expensive Rose Champagnes. Now us men can at last feel comfortablewith a glass of pink.

And Pinotage makes a great, brightly coloured, pink. Its naturally sweet mouthfeel means wine makers can produce a dry wine that tastes good on its own and slips down easily on a hot summers day.

WoSA organised a pink wine tasting stand at the London International Wine & Spirit Fair this year and I was pleased to see August Pepe was staffing it. August is the welcoming face in Delheim's tasting cellar and leads the winery tours. And it is appropriate Delheim was represented as they were one of the first Cape exponents of pink wines and the pioneer of pink Pinotage, making their first one in 1976.

August's stand was covered in pink bottles and I noticed Pinotages from Swartland Winery, L'Avenir and of course Delheim.

"So what do you think of the Delheim Rose, August?" I ask.

He takes a mouthful and ponders.

"Excellent -- it is the best!", is his verdict.

12 June 2007

Pinotage to the Rescue

Pinotage not only takes a major part in turning around the recent decline in South African wine sales in the UK, but also plays a vital role in rescuing a marriage.

Exports of Pinotage wines from South Africa to the UK are up by 46% in the period January -April 2007 compared with the same period last year. South Africa wine exports overall increased by 8%, reversing a previous decline. While the major SA brand in the UK (Kumala) still suffers falling sales, the second (Namaqua) and third (First Cape) largest brands are doing well, with First Cape - who market a varietal Pinotage - seeing a 114% increase in sales. And no doubt the recent promotions on Stormhoek and Beyerskloof have also helped. (Information from Harpers )

Meanwhile an anonymous blogger is having problems with her husband who she is "beginning to suspect may be on the verge of a mid-life crisis. "

She writes "Our finances preclude the purchase of that typical symbol of mid-life crisis - a ‘male meno-Porsche’ so instead he has bought a pair of in-line skates.

To be fair, as well as being an all round Boy Scout, H has always been a good skater – a sort of Ray Mears on wheels. He used to rollerblade to work when he was young and carefree, and was therefore a frequent recipient of abuse from motorists, cyclists and pedestrians alike.

However this weekend, he returned from a skating trip with more of a glow than usual. Apparently, a car full of teenage girls had beeped their car horn and waved at him as he skated along. All fairly innocent, you might think, but no - he has been down at the gym this morning, clearly convinced that his body is now a temple at which young women will come and worship. Bless!

More worryingly, he has declared his intention to abstain from drinking wine. Surely such self-delusion has its limits? Clearly some action needs to be taken to avoid irreparable damage to our marriage. Therefore, in an attempt to lure him once again with my oenophile charms, I have uncorked a Tesco Finest Beyers Truter Pinotage (£7.99). I am certain that the spicy blackberry flavour will convince him of the error of his ways. How could he fail to realise that a lithe limbed lovely offering him a swig of her alcopop cannot compare with the delights of drinking decent red wine? Even if it does mean sharing it with a woman whose teeth are gradually turning blue."

10 June 2007

Stormhoek Pinotage is getting Fresher

2005Stormhoek are leading the field with a 'best before' date on their bottles. Many people think wine has to age years before it is at its best, but that is a fallacy. The overwhelming majority of wines are at their best on release. And Stormhoek's "Freshness Indicator" shows the time period when the wine will be most enjoyable, or -- as us wine geeks call it -- the "drinking window."

I was intrigued to compare the dates on the 2005 Pinotage back label (pictured above left) with that from the 2006 vintage (pictured below right).

It is recommended to drink the 2005 before January 2008, thus the drinker has two complete years ( 2006 and 2007) plus the few months after the wine was released in 2005, to enjoy the wine.

But the 2006 vintage should be enjoyed by June 2008. That is 7 whole months less than the lifespan of the 2005. Puzzling......

Another thing that puzzles me about the Stormhoek label is that there is no indication where the wine was bottled. One assumes that Stormhoek bottled it at their winery in South Africa, but it doesn't say so. There are increasing numbers of wines being shipped in bulk for local bottling. It saves costs by not shipping glass bottles, but I try not to buy such wines because I just don't trust them.

If you want to check the bottles for yourself, and you live in Britain, then nip along to Tesco's with your camera phone, take a snap of yourself holding a bottle of Stormhoek and email it to them, and they'll send you a £5 voucher. Stormhoek are currently discounted at Tesco's (and Waitrose). See www.stormhoek.com for details

07 June 2007

Lovingston makes it 3

2007 is definitely the Year of Pinotage in Virginia. Lovingston Winery tell me they have released their first Pinotage, bringing to three the number of Pinotage wineries in Virginia. Horton Vineyards and Grayhaven Winery also launched varietal Pinotages this year.

Owner Ed Puckett told me “We discovered about a third of an acre of Pinotage growing at a rather large vineyard about an hour’s drive from our vineyard and winery . Our winemaker is a South African fellow named Riaan Rossouw who insisted that I buy the grapes although I did so with much trepidation. We are currently selling the 2005 vintage which is our first. It has been a fantastic hit with all the wine shops and restaurants in the Central Virginia area. Our production has been basically depleted in about 3 months.

“The interesting thing about Virginia Pinotage is its lack of some of the gamey characteristics that I’ve noticed in South African versions. I call it Pinot Noir with balls. We have subsequently taken cuttings from the vineyard after having tied up it’s production for the next 3 years and have sent them off for grafting. We’ll plant them in the spring of 2008.

“Our fruit came from a vineyard that had been planted by Horton on leased property. Horton subsequently lost the lease and the vineyard reverted back to the landowners who operate a turkey farm there. So we call it the 'turkey hill' vineyard although I think they have a fancy name for it. Their plan is to rip out a lot of the varieties over the next several years and plant with more traditional grapes -- we have convinced them to keep the Pinotage vines for 3 years which will allow us to get our Pinotage vineyard going here. We currently grow Merlot and Cab Franc at our vineyard but will plant the Pinotage next spring.”

Seems like Pinotage has found a new home in Virginia.

05 June 2007

Hartenberg win Best Pinotage Trophy

In Cape Town yesterday, Hartenberg 2004 was awarded the best Pinotage Trophy at the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show 2007. The competition, sponsored by the Old Mutual finance company, is a national competition that seeks to identify the top wines in South Africa.

The same wine also won the Old Mutual Trophy for Discovery of the Show (Best Value).

Other winning Pinotages were:

Silver Medal
  • Hidden Valley 2004
  • Diemersfontein Carpe Diem 2005

Bronze Medal

  • Lindhorst 2005
  • Laibach 2005
  • Longridge 2004
  • Perdeberg 2006
  • PK Morkel 2004
  • Meerendal 1995 – Museum Class

Judge Neil Beckett (editor of the World of Fine Wine and member of the Grand Jury European) said of the Pinotage entries “ An interesting class, we had a higher proportion of faults - brettanomyces (brett) or reduction or VA. On the other hand, there were a great number of wines, especially those on the Pinot side of the parentage, where real elegance and finesse is more evident.”

Fellow judge Cathy van Zyl MW said “A fair number of faults but also a fair number of decent, smart wines. We didn't see much evidence of the tutti frutti style and not too much of a strongly acetone style.”

So that’s another wine to add to the list that I have yet to encounter. I did taste their 2003 at the winery earlier this year and enjoyed it (medium bodied, sweet rush of fruits of the forest flavours), but I must admit that Hartenberg has been below my Pinotage radar.

Winemaker Jaco van der Merwe told me that Hartenberg had planted Pinotage quite recently and that 2001 was their first vintage.

Well done Hartenberg!

For all results see www.winemag.co.za/content/online/trophywineshow/2007/review.asp

It is interesting to note that of the 50 entries in thePinotage category, 18% won an award while the Shiraz category had 151 entries but only gained 11.26% awards

04 June 2007

Taste Pinotage with Kanonkop's Johann Krige

If you are in South Africa you'll want to know that WINE magazine is organising tastings of top Pinotages on 6 June in Cape Town and 14 June in Johannesburg.

Johann Krige, owner of Kanonkop Estate, will lead the tastings. Tickets are R100 a head. Bookings can be made by emailing smart@rsp.co.za faxing 0866 704 101, or telephoning 0860 100 203.

Wines to be poured are

Kanonkop 2004

Allée Bleue 2005
Compagnies Wijn 2005
Deetlefs Oak Matured 2005
Groot Constantia 2005
Hidden Valley 2004
Pulpit Rock Brink Family 2005
Simonsig Redhill 2005
Southern Right 2005

Ashbourne 2005

Location details are

Date: Wednesday, 06 June 2007
Time: 18H30
Venue: Mount Nelson Hotel, Gardens

Date: Thursday, 14 June 2007
Time: 18H30
Venue: Park Hyatt Hotel, Rosebank

There are some cracking wines to be tasted.