01 August 2007

Pinotage Impresses Press

Neil Pendock reports on a press trip to Pinotage Country organised last week by Pinotage Association sponsors ABSA bank.

Last week’s press tour ended at Meerendal, home to one of the oldest Pinotage vineyards in the Cape, the aptly named Heritage Block, with its tiny berry grapes, tiny yields and a uniquely perfumed flavour profile. Wines made from this block confirm the point made by Meerendal GM Guy Kedian that "there are as many styles of Pinotage as there are producers".

From the surprisingly Bordeaux-style Simonsig Frans Malan ’97 Cape blend to the surprisingly juvenile unwooded Simonsig ’95 to the 1.12 million bottles of Truter’s fruit driven Beyerskloof Pinotage ‘06, great value at R33.50 a bottle. From the seamlessly elegant Allée Bleue ’95 made from tiny high altitude bush vine grapes from the Piekenierskloof to the Devon Valley fruit bombs Zaine Pritchard sells to Russia and the exciting Simonsig MCC ’06 made from Pinotage and Pinot Meunier – a step up from two previous vintages snapped up by the UK Waitrose supermarket chain.

From Truter’s violet-infused Cape/Portugal blend of Touriga Naçional and Pinotage to Kaapzicht’s effortlessly elegant Steytler Vision Cape Blend presented by the effortlessly elegant Yngvild Steytler and the Pinotages De Wet Viljoen makes at Neethlingshof which confirm just how seriously Cape Legends takes sometimes pilloried Pinotage.

My standout wine of the pilgrimage was a 1991 Kanonkop Pinotage, remarkably fresh and free of blemishes for a 16 year old teenager. Primary fruit flavours were still evident and had been complimented by the evolution of mushroom and forest floor flavours from the Pinot Noir parent of the grape. Along with the still vibrant 1982 Meerendal, it confirms the remarkable longevity of Perold’s grape.

A vertical tasting of Kanonkop vintages from the early ‘90s side-by-side those of a decade later was revealing: the ‘90s wines all had 10% less alcohol for wines made from grapes harvested from the same vineyard at approximately the same harvest date. Kanonkop winemaker Abrie Beeslaar offered several explanations – from Global Warming to cleaning-up the vineyard for leaf-roll virus. As he commented "the worse a vineyard looks, the better the wine you can make from the grapes – totally contrary to what we were taught at University". Leaf-roll virus inhibits sugar accumulation and increases hang-time – leading Beeslaar to comment, "I don’t believe leaf-roll virus is 100% negative" – a point often made by Chardonnay champion Mike Dobrovic with his Mulderbosh barrel fermented wines made from grapes grown on virus-infected vines.

On the subject of alcohol levels, Beeslaar notes that Pinotage fermented in traditional open cement tanks (like those from Jacobsdal, Kanonkop and Allée Bleue) also can expect up to 1% lower alcohols as compared to those fermented in stainless steel tanks.

Meerendal's Guy Kedian summed up "to those who say that Pinotage is not the varietal we should pin our flag to, I totally disagree. We should ignore the pretentious folk trying to turn it into something it isn’t, for their own benefit. At the end of the day, it’s only wine – not some mystical thing".

Source -- www.wine.co.za. Reposted with thanks.


  1. Anonymous19:42

    Hear! Hear! For my all-time favourite Pinotage - Kanonkop! With all respect due, I believe, to Beyers Truter for pushing Pinotage the way he has even when other knowledgable wine makers weren't. Of course I rate Beyerskloof just as high. Cheers!

  2. one day I too hope to post reports direct from Pinotage country... one day perhaps.