27 September 2007

Rijk's wins Michelangelo Trophy

Four Pinotages were awarded the Grand d' Or - Michelangelo International Wine Awards top award - in the 2007 competion whose results were announced on 15 September. They are:-

  • Bellevue Estate 'Morkel' 2005
  • Groot Eiland 2005
  • Rijk's Private Cellar 2003
  • Stellenzicht 'Cellarmaster Release' 2005

with Rijks claiming the Pinotage Trophy.

Congrats to all!

Full results are here.

26 September 2007

SA Winemakers “Slate Pinotage”

David Trafford, owner/winemaker de Trafford WinesSouth African Winemakers Louis Nel and David Trafford “slated the country’s signature grape Pinotage” according to Harpers magazine (21/09).

Harpers quotes David Trafford (de Trafford Wines - pictured right) saying “It’s a grape for wine anoraks – you have to go through a lot of bad Pinotages to find a good one. Even when you get a good Pinotage right, it goes through funny stages in the bottle and could look pretty dumb.”

Louis Nel - winemaker at Warwick EstateLouis Nel ( (Warwick Estate - pictured left) weighs in with “Pinotage is a lot like Merlot – and there’s a lot of dodgy Merlots. Even boring Cabernet is good but there’s a lot of bad Pinotage.”

Call me biased, but I reckon you could change the word Pinotage for Pinot Noir in David Trafford’s statement and it would be just as valid.

Harpers is a UK weekly trade magazine

25 September 2007

From Rusty Nail to Elegant Fruit

Julian Brind MW at the Pinotage Top 10 judgingArticles about Pinotage all too often tell of the group of British Masters of Wine who visited South Africa in 1976 and, comparing Pinotage’s taste to "rusty nails", declared that the variety had no future.

In that group was Julian Brind MW (pictured right) , until recently head wine buyer for the UK Waitrose supermarket chain. Thirty-one years later he again tasted Pinotage in South Africa, this time as a judge at the Pinotage Top 10 Competition.

Interviewed after the judging, Julian remarked that most of the wines in the competition were of an exceptionally high quality based on international standards, and it was almost impossible to select only the top ten wines.

"I think the rest of the world must discover these wines and South Africans must be very proud of it,” he said. “The balance of fruit, elegance and good integration of tannins is an indication of the talent of South Africa's viticulturists and winemakers. They made it very difficult for us to select only the top ten."

Fellow judge South African Dave Hughes emphasised the combination of quality and diversity. "People think there is only one kind of Pinotage, but the variety of styles makes it a real tasting experience, but every wine still is a Pinotage,” he stated. “A few years ago, it was my opinion that you could only select the top five to seven out of all the entries, now it is difficult to select the top fifteen. The quality and fine balance of the wines improve year after year."

The results of the 2007 Absa Top 10 Pinotage Competition will be announced on 31 October at the Arrabella Sheraton Hotel in Cape Town.

23 September 2007

Spice Route 2003

Immediate impressions are of a soft approachable and fruit forward wine. But underneath the upfront juicy berry flavours is a grippy structure. There's a pleasing combination of sweet leather and soft oak tannins. This is a spicily enjoyable drink, both powerful and complex wine that shows more facets over time.

Spice Route is part of Charles Back's Fairview family. The winery is located in Swartland and winemaker Charl du Plessis joined Spice Route from Rijk's in Tulbagh.

This 2003 wine was a Pinotage Top 10 winner in 2004 and was a second win for Charl in that competition since the wine he made two years previously in Tulbagh - the 2001 Rijk's ( reviewed here) - was also a winner.

Producer: Spice Route Wine Company
Winemaker: Charl du Plessis
Variety: 100% Pinotage
Appellation: Swartland
Cost: around 13GBP/26 USD / 80 ZAR

15 September 2007

Golds for Spier & Nederburg

Congratulations to both Spier and Nederburg on winning Gold medals at MUNDUSvini International Wine Awards for their Spier 'Private Collection' Pinotage 2005 and Nederburg 'Classic' Pinotage 2005.

This international competition held in Germany is said to be the largest officially recognised wine competition in the world; 4495 wines were entered this year, of which 429 were awarded gold. Medals are limited no more than one third of wines entered.

Spier Cellar Master Frans Smit said “Our goal is to be known across the globe for our Private Collection wines. This is a great result for our newly-released vintage, and an affirmation of our selection of wines, from the vineyard block right through to barrel.”

Spier Wines MD Neville Carew added, “At Spier quality underpins everything we do. The fact that our wines are formally recognised at a global level upholds our mission of ‘taking our wines to the world’.”

Nederburg's marketing manager Misti Watson said “Germany is our next biggest market, where sales have continued to climb, despite the fierce competition from New World and Old World producers. When international competition results largely concur with those on domestic events, we believe it shows Nederburg’s capacity to create pleasing wines that transcend geographic boundaries.

13 September 2007

Positive Pinotage -- Rolland Can Make It

Michel Rolland, the famous international winemaking consultant, showed some of his wines at a tasting in San Francisco attended by Laurie Daniel whose 12 September report appears in the San Jose Mercury News as follows

'"You can make cabernet sauvignon everywhere," Rolland said. "Merlot is not exactly the same, but almost." But pinotage is a grape variety that's special to South Africa, as carmenere is to Chile, he noted, and he thinks pinotage shows great potential as a blending grape. "I'm sure we can make it with positive character," he said.'

Two wines were shown that contained Pinotage, both from Remhoogte Estate. Daniel writes 'The 2004 Remhoogte ($40), a blend of mostly merlot and cabernet sauvignon with 20 percent pinotage, is one of the better South African wines I've tasted: It's rich and ripe, with dark fruit, a subtle herbal note, a hint of tar, good structure and a long finish. The 2003 Bonne Nouvelle ($81), a similar blend that's a selection of the best barrels from the Remhoogte Estate, is a little showier, with more obvious oak. (Considering the price difference, I'd opt for the former wine.)'

Daniel himself is not a fan of the variety, calling it an "odd cross" of which he's "tasted very few that I'd want to drink" .

12 September 2007

Wine Blogging Wednesday - Rijk's 2001 & Beyerskloof 2006

Wine Blogging Wednesday is a web institution in which people around the world blog on a theme. For the 37th WBW on 12 September, which is hosted by Dr Vino, the subject is “go native” with an indigenous grape variety.

Pinotage -- pronounced 'pinno-targe' -- is the local red variety of South Africa, having been developed there eighty years ago. It is a variety used to make wines in all styles, including sparkling, pink and fortified. But the best expression of the variety is in serious red wines. Since Pinotage is a fairly recent variety, and because there is no old world model to measure it against, wine makers have been interpreting the variety in several styles.

My take is that Pinotage’s taste profile should be found within the oenological region bounded by the southern Rhone, northern Italian red and Californian Zinfandel. There should be the rich spicinessof Zin and warm depth of Syrah with a twist of the gamey kick of Italian reds. Plus, a lush sweet mouthfeel that is uniquely Pinotage.

For WBW I am tasting two Pinotages. First is a mature wine from the 2001 vintage. This vintage is sold out now at the winery but you may still find it in a specialist shop. The second you should be able to find inexpensively almost anywhere.

Rijk's Pinotage 2001

RijksThe nose is closed, not offering much at all, and it feels quite firm on the front palate. But first impressions are deceptive because this wine soon opens in the glass to offer yummy blackberry fruit with a pleasing sweet uplift on the finish. There’s some acidity also, and integrated oak (40% new French oak barrels) is working its creamy magic behind the scenes. It has 14.5% abv but feels light and refreshing, making it an ideal food wine.

Rijk’s – pronounced ‘rakes’ – was created by the Dorrington family in the Tulbagh valley and named in honour of Rijk Tulbagh, governor of the Cape from 1751 to 1771, who gave his name to the town and valley. Rijk’s wines achieved almost instant success from their first bottling in 2000. Their very first Pinotage won Top 10 in 2001 and this Pinotage, from the 2001 vintage was a Top 10 winner in 2004.

Although it’s a bit of a drive from Cape Town, I like to visit Rijk’s to enjoy lunch in their open air restaurant shaded under vine leaves and overlooking a lake and vineyards. And, as usual in the Cape, I have a glass or two of cold Chenin Blanc with my food. Rijk’s make stunning Chenins which are not to be missed.

Although vines have been grown in Tulbagh for generations, the land bought by Neville Dorrington had never previously been cultivated. The Norringtons started planting vines in 1997 and three years later, when the winery had been built, they produced their first wines and now make about 11,000 cases annually from a variety of cultivars.

Rijks Private Cellar
Winemaker: Charl du Plessis
Variety: 100% Pinotage
Appellation: Coastal
Cost: around 18GBP/36 USD

Beyerskloof Pinotage 2006

Beyerskloof winery specialises in Pinotage - the red leaf label is the world's largest selling Pinotage brand - which is no surprise as its winemaking owner, Beyers Truter, championed the variety and is known as the Pinotage King.

Although made in huge quantities -- 1.5 million bottles of the 2006 were produced -- quality is maintained and all the grapes are grown only in the premium Stellenbosch region of South Africa.

I chilled this wine by putting it in the fridge for half an hour before opening -- which is how they serve it at Beyerskloof. On opening there is an strong fruity bouquet as if the wine can't wait to get into the glass. Well, let's pour it. It has a deep black core with a bright purple red rim, and a powerful fruity taste. This is a gutsy wine -- I often have it to accompany spicy Indian food with which it matches well.

There's black fruits, cherry and plums, some blackcurrant leaf and a lick of leather on the back palate. Somewhere I'm also getting black olive tapenade. This wine is so yummy I keep drinking for the sheer pleasure rather than analyzing. No matter, lets pour another glass. What do you mean 'the bottle is empty'?

Owner winemaker Beyers Truter is a man with boundless energy. Now a young 50 year old, he was a rugby-player in his youth before being appointed winemaker at Kanonkop Estate where he championed and elevated the Pinotage variety, along the way being named International Winemaker of the year at the 1991 Wine & Spirit Competition held in London. He is the only winemaker ever to twice receive the Pichon Longueville Comtesse de la Lalande trophy for the best blended red wine at the International Wine and Spirit Competition in London. That was in 1994 and 1999.

He founded his own Beyerskloof winery in 1998 on a property owned until 1895 by five generations of ancestors and so he became the sixth generation to farm this particular land.

Beyers Truter is active in the Church and in politics (he has stood for the ANC and founded a farmers political party) and his latest venture is the ‘Faith Fund’ charity focusing on Foetal Alcohol Syndrome. This year at Beyerskloof he extended the cellars and opened the instantly popular ‘Red Leaf’ restaurant featuring dishes cooked in and with Pinotage -- my favourite being the Pinotage Burger.

Producer: Beyerskloof
Winemaker: Beyers Truter
Variety: 100% Pinotage
Appellation: Stellenbosch
Cost: 5 GBP/10 USD/35ZAR

10 September 2007

Café Culture Coffee Pinotage Launched

KWV today launched a new Pinotage under the brand Café Culture – and the name suggests they are aiming at the market for coffee-toned Pinotages pioneered by Diemersfontein with its cult ‘coffee & chocolate’ Pinotage. Not that KWV is using the ‘c’ word – oh dear me no – please note that it is ‘mocha’.

KWV say “Café Culture is a new Pinotage wine, produced in an innovative style and presented in a trendy packaging that mirrors its vibrant target market perfectly. Café Culture is a brand that has been specially created for trendy, upmarket enjoyment. It has an air of the avant-garde and bohemian. It is associated with debate and banter. It is the Café Culture - a lively, vibey social spirit with a sense of adventure and exclusivity...even decadence. The modern, understated label emphasises the social nature of the wine, and recalls the smart café society of the Twenties and Thirties.”

The wine was crafted by winemaker Bertus Fourie who says the wine “is the most controversial style of Pinotage wine in the world. Most people crave it. It does not speak of 'terroir' as oak plays the dominant role. This accounts for its mocha and chocolate flavours – the richness of coffee beans, the smoothness of creamy chocolate and the freshness of ripe fruit. ”

Prior to taking up his post of Senior Winemaker at KWV, Bertus Fourie was the winemaker at Diemersfontein responsible for creating their innovative popular coffee'n'chocolate Pinotage. In a prescient item for South African magazine ‘Grape’, diarist ‘The Widow’ wrote in November 2005 that KWV were looking for ways of “making their red wines taste of coffee. 'Go out and hire Bertus ‘Starbucks’ Fourie at any price' was the directorial demand!”

The 2007 vintage wine (although the bottle image on the KWV site says 2006 – I wonder what happened to that wine) was harvested and underwent wood maturation (where it presumably picked up its coffee mocha flavours from the toasted oak) for 3 months before being blended and bottled July 2007. It has a hefty 14% abv and is recommended for drinking on its own or as an accompaniment to meat and pasta dishes as well as chocolate and berry desserts.

I like to think of myself as ‘trendy’ and ‘upmarket’ (I’m not so certain about ‘vibrant’ but ‘decadent’ probably fits) and so I look forward to tasting it…..

07 September 2007

Record Entries for 2007 Top 10 Competition


This years Pinotage Top 10 Competition has attracted a record 148 entries -19 more than last year -and it welcomes 19 brands entering the competition for the first time.

The annual competition, now in its 11th year, is run by the producers' Pinotage Association and is sponsored by ABSA Bank. The competition is unusual in choosing 10 equal winners in order to be able to recognise and reward different styles and interpretations of South Africa's Pinotage grape variety.

As usual, wines from the Stellenbosch district are in the majority, but altogether 30 different Wine of Origins are represented. The three areas with most entries are Stellenbosch with 49 wines (33 in 2006), Paarl with 16 (17 in 2006) and Western Cape with 15 (5 in 2006). There were no entries from outside South Africa.

Entries come from six different vintages, with 40% from 2006 (59 wines) and 30% from 2005 (45 wines). The oldest vintage is 2002 (one wine) and there are six from the recent 2007 vintage.

This years Judges will be Duimpie Bayly(Pinotage Association Vice Chairman & Cape Wine Master), Charles Hopkins (winemaker), Chris Roux (winemaker), Dave Hughes (wine writer, Cape Wine Master), Neil Pendock (wine writer), Michelle Cherutti-Kowal (wine lecturer in England) and Julian Brind (UK Master of Wine). They will taste all the wines, then retaste the 20 highest scoring wines to determine the final winning Top 10.


05 September 2007

Platter Guide is World's Best

**Exclusive to www. pinotage.org**

South Africa’s “John Platter Wine Guide” was tonight recognised as the world’s best.

Editor Philip van Zyl (pictured left) was in London to accept the Champagne Louis Roederer International Wine Writers ‘Domaines Ott’ Award for best Annual Wine Guide 2007.

Philip told me that that while he was delighted and thrilled to win the award, he accepted it on behalf of a dedicated team that has been working hard tasting and rating some 6000 wines in order to produce the guide.

Louis Roederer Champagne flowed in the heart of London’s theatre land as we celebrated the win. All, that is, except one man. Philip van Zyl declined his place at the award winner’s dinner in order to make last minute checks of the 2008 Guide. He was in London for this one night only – tomorrow he flies to Singapore with the manuscript of the guide and will spend the following week closeted with the printers and checking tproofs.

Philip van Zyl’s award consisted of a large engraved silver Champagne bucket, a magnum of Roederer ‘Cristal’ Champagne in a presentation box and a substantial cheque. “We will be having a real party when I get home,” said Philip.

Borrowing a mobile, he phoned home to tell his wife Cathy. “What did she say?” I asked. “I don’t know,” he replied, “She just screamed!!”

The panel of judges were Steven Spurrier (chairman), president of the Circle of Wine Writers; Christine Austin, wine writer, wine editor of The Larousse Gastronomique and winner of the Louis Roederer regional wine writer award 2006; Deborah Collinson of Deborah Collinson & Associates; Matt Harris, managing director of Planet of the Grapes; Charlotte Hey, publisher and editorial director of The Drinks Business and Helen Lederer, comedienne, writer and actress.

**EXCLUSIVE** You read it here first!

03 September 2007

KariKari Pinotage 2005

Jules van Cruysen in Wellington, New Zealand, posted these notes about KariKari Estate, a winery in the far north of New Zealand that I've not previously heard of. He says

KariKari Estate Pinotage 2005

"This is their most expensive (NZ$45) and flagship wine and I think sums up their style the best – it had a dark inky purple color and a rich fruit forward nose with ripe lack plums and cedar coming through predominantly. These follow through on the palate but more as secondary flavours and are complemented by a fleshy, sinewy, almost mutton characteristics both in terms of flavour profile but also texturally.

These were also underpinned by rich and heady coffee and cacao flavours. It had a taut, drying tannin structure which offset the sweet ripeness of the wine. Personally I don't think this wine will be everybodies cup of tea (isn't this the case with everything) but I really enjoyed enjoyed it and think it is probably the best example of a Kiwi pinotage."

Karikari Estate's first vines were planted in 1998 with their first vintage in 2003. They now have 40 hectares planted with Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon, Franc, Malbec, Pinotage, Chardonnay, Viognier and Montepuliciano.

The Pinotage is their most expensive wine. Winemaker Ben Dugdale has this to say about the current 2005 Pinotage.

"What I aim for in this wine is a clear, pronounced varietal definition of Pinotage. The vines give us fist sized rather compact bunches of ovoid shaped berries. The skins are tight and reasonably thin, pulp quite firm and the seeds small. It reminds me in some ways of Pinot noir and that has influenced the method of vinification.

I prefer about 30-40% whole berries in the ferment, which allows a little carbonic fermentation aroma to lift the fruit in the resultant wine. I do not enjoy the characters that post ferment maceration give the wine so generally remove the skins within days (sometimes hours) of the wine reaching 0 brix.

Pressing lasts a few hours and I generally add the press wine back to the “free run”, unless there is a damn good reason not to. The wine undergoes malolactic in barrel and usually goes for about 2 months. The wine is racked post malolactic fermentation and sulphur added. The wine remains in barrel for about a year with regular topping. At the end of maturation the wine is pumped into tank and prepared for bottling. I felt there was no great benefit in fining or “adjusting” the acid in this wine – so was very happy to leave it alone"

Thanks to Jules for allowing me to post his tasting notes. Visit his blog here