31 October 2007

2007 Pinotage Top 10 Winners Announced - Exclusive

The results of the Pinotage Top 10 Competition were announced today at the award ceremony.
There are six first time winners:

Bon Courage Pinotage 2006
Robertson Wine of Origin and first-time Top 10 winner
Winemaker Jacques Bruwer
Judges' notes: "Ripe plum nose with vanilla and spice. Rich, succulent mouth with layers of berry flavour".

Fantail Pinotage 2006
Stellenbosch Wine of Origin and first-time Top 10 winner
Winemaker Jacques Cilliers.
Judges' notes: "Warm spices, hints of mint. Firm yet fine grained tannins".

Fleur du Cap Pinotage 2005
Coastal Region Wine of Origin and first-time Top 10 winner
Winemaker Justin Corrans.
Judges' notes: "Black cherries and milk chocolate Very well structured tannins balancing acidity".

Four Paws Pinotage 2006
Piekenierskloof Wine of Origin and first-time Top 10 winner.
Winemaker Anne Jakubiec.
Judges' notes: "Brambles with a hint of grapefruit. Fresh acidity, lively expression on the palate".

Marianne Pinotage 2004
Paarl Wine of Origin and first-time Top 10 winner.
Winemaker Stephan du Toit
Judges' notes: "Ripe plum, chocolate, mint and cherry on the nose with a hint of vanilla. Sweet fruited mouth".

Windmeul Reserve Pinotage
2006 Paarl Wine of Origin and first-time Top 10 winner
Winemaker Francois van Niekerk
Judges' notes: "Ripe full ripe plum and cherry on the nose with same flavours in the mouth".

Môreson Pinotage 2006
Coastal Region Wine of Origin and third-time Top 10 winner
Winemaker Hannes Meye
Judges' notes: "Aromas leap from the glass! Rich, full fruit with chocolate and cherry. Supple tannins".

Pulpit Rock Pinotage 2005
Swartland Wine of Origin and second consecutive year as a Top 10 winner
Winemaker Piet Kleinhans
Judges' notes: "Ripe black fruit with minty notes. Delicate yet firm tannins with balanced acidity"

Simonsig Redhill Pinotage 2005
Stellenbosch Wine of Origin and third-time Top 10 winner
Winemaker Debbie Burden
Judges' notes: "Ripe plum nose with cherry and vanilla. Big and full in the mouth with great oak support".

Stellenzicht Golden Triangle Pinotage 2006
Winemaker Guy Webber
Stellenbosch Wine of Origin and fourth Top 10 win all in the past five years
Judges' notes: "Rich, ripe plum, full fruited, well rounded mouth with developing complexity".

It is good to see new wineries win for the first time, but sad not to see some old friends. What it shows is that the Pinotage bar keeps being raised, and any winery that doesn't enter because they they don't stand a chance against the Pinotage establishment should make definite plans to compete in 2008.

Congratulations to all the winners!

I cannot wait to taste them all.

30 October 2007

Soft hands for Durbanville Hills Pinotage

Martin Moore (pictured left), Cellarmaster at Durbanville Hills, has some interesting pointers on Pinotage. In his latest newsletter he says

"Our 2006 Pinotage has just reached the market. I am often asked by overseas visitors why it tends to be so different from the Pinotage they tasted in other areas, claiming it reminds them more of Pinot noir than the typical Pinotage they have come across.

This Pinot noir character is something I’ve only found in cool climate areas such as ours. I believe Pinotage must be made with "soft hands" to preserve its lovely fruitiness and without extracting too much hard tannin. I have often at winemakers' dinners combined chilled Pinotage with a fruity or even chocolate dessert and always enjoy the stunned looks on guests' faces when they confess that "it works"!

Do try chilled Pinotage this summer and I bet you'll be surprised. I often point out to people that we tend to drink our whites too cold and our reds too warm. The tradition of serving reds at room temperature applies to European room temperature and not that in the Upington station café on the brink of the Kalahari Desert in midsummer on a Sunday afternoon. "

It is well worth signing up for Martin's newsletter -- he is a good writer with firm opinions and always has something of interest to say.

Picture of Martin Moore was taken from the Durbanville Hills website and is copyright (c) Distell Group Ltd and is used in accordance with their terms and conditions.

28 October 2007

South Africa's Greatest Pinotage?

This advert for Beyerskloof Pinotage apeared in the UK national newspaper The Guardian yesterday.

I cannot ever remember seeing a Pinotage being advertised this way before. But the advert wording raises a number of interesting questions:

-- If this is the greatest Pinotage, where does that leave Beyerskloof's black labelled barrel-aged Reserve bottling? (although to be fair that is not available in the UK)
-- The bottle pictured is the 2006 vintage with a screw-cap. The screwcapped bottles are available only in Tesco's; other supermarkets and high street chains have cork closures. So where does that leave the 'Beyers Truter' branded Pinotage stocked by Tesco at £2 more a bottle ?
-- Just South Africa, Beyers? Not the worlds greatest????

"You tell us" the advert invites, pointing to a revamped Beyerskloof website homepage.

You can vote

YES without question

NO, definitely not

or click on TELL ME MORE

But I don't think the voting buttons work or that there is any coding behind them because nothing happens. There is nothing to stop you clicking multiple times, no scores are shown, and if you click on 'Tell me More', you are shown the following blank page:-

    Maybe it is deliberate and they're trying to suggest that "there's no more to say", but the Beyerskloof website has a long, sorry history of links not working and pages missing: it is a mystery why this major winery still can't get the basics of its web-site right.

    **UPDATE** As of close of business 30 October the buttons all now work, and voting is 77% that Beyerskloof Pinotage is SA's greatest.**

    Beyers told me some months ago that he intended blogging on the site, and now you can click on a 'Talk to Us' button to send your comments to 'Beyers Blogosphere' on a blog there. As of Sunday morning, the only entries are promotional puffs from someone calling themselves 'RedLeaf' .

    So pile in and take part...

    27 October 2007

    Times blasts stinky SA Wines - Diemersfontein Pinotage Excepted

    Not everyone was impressed by the recent South Africa Mega Tasting in London. Jane McQuitty writing in todays Times newspaper says “South Africa has yet to tame its peculiar, savage, burnt rubber and dirt odour. Other commentators either fail to take offence, or euphemistically dismiss the smell and taste as “smoky”, “earthy” or “tarry”. She says she blind tasted the “country’s flagship reds, priced from £16 to £40 a bottle and mostly Bordeaux-inspired blends, and half of them displayed this unpleasant taint.”

    We often read that burnt rubber is a descriptor of Pinotage, but McQuitty says that it is nothing to do with the variety, “though this variety frequently suffers from the pong”, which is “associated either with unacceptably high yields, virused vines, a pH-related bacterial infection, or that it’s just what occurs during a typical Cape red wine ferment and maceration session.”

    Although she says Pinotage has a “weird, jammy, nail varnish scent” Diemersfontein is one of her favourite South African wines, and is one of only four wines she recommends, “Diemersfontein’s masterly 2006 Pinotage (£7.99), with its sweet, burnt, heavy, peppery fruit,” is ideal for a game casserole.

    Full article is at www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/food_and_drink/wine/article2729852.ece

    26 October 2007

    Onyx Releases 2004 Pinotage

    Abé Beukes is the cellar-master at Darling Cellars and I remember visiting him there some years ago when their top range Onyx brand was first produced. Now Onyx has a track record and earned a reputation so I was pleased when Abé offered to pour me a taste of the newly released 2004 vintage Onyx Pinotage. Abé told me it comes from low yielding (3 tons a hectare) 35 year old vines in Darling and spent 15 months in 100% new French and Hungarian oak barrels. It has14.5% abv.

    In the glass the colour was a dull, brooding dark black with a red rim and the bouquet was sweet. On the front palate the wine was ripe and full bodied, with wood well to the back, giving underpinning structure. There was a lively crispness at the end and a lick of wood tannins on the long finish. A nicely balanced serious wine!

    24 October 2007

    Innovative Arniston Bay

    If you are still wrestling with the closure argument between cork and screwcap, do try to catch up as the debate has moved on to bottles versus other containers. Bag-in-box wines have been with us for decades, as have cans and Tetra-paks, and now ‘the company of wine people’ have a new packaging concept for their Arniston Bay brand that is really good looking.

    It is effectively a ‘bag-in-a box’ – without the box. The 1.5 litre container – called an ‘e-pouch’ – have a comfortable carrying handle, weigh about a kilo less than the equivalent amount of wine in two 750ml glass bottles, and are cheaper too. There is a tap for pouring a glass when needed, and the wine should remain fresh in the container for a month after unsealing the tap. And when finished, it folds flat taking almost no space in rubbish.

    What is really impressive is how the pouch, thanks to its clever design, stands easily upright on its own.

    And they are about to release a 250ml serving bag, (pictured left) the equivalent of two normal glasses or one large pub-sized glass. This will be ideal for taking to events where glass is not allowed, walking, camping or other such activity where weight and breakages (and corkscrews) are a concern.

    I was enthused by the packaging, but what about the contents? They are the same wines as currently available in glass bottles. The only Pinotage available for me to taste was the Rose 2007 which is semi-sweet (4-5grams residual sugar) with a boiled sweet flavour which suits the market it is aimed at .

    I think this packaging is a real cracker – and initial reports from UK supermarket chain Morrisons, who are trialling it, show that sales are exceeding expectation. I’ll be purchasing some of those smart 250ml e-pouches when I see some red Pinotage in them.

    The e-pouch ('e' for ethical and ecological) was developed in South Africa and is made from three multiple protective layers to contribute to the aesthetic qualities, strength and permeability. It is said to have an 80% lower carbon footprint than two glass bottles and make 90% less waste and less landfill than two glass bottles.

    19 October 2007

    Imvula is Writing History

    “As a black woman I am writing history for my children”, says Thembi Tobie, whose Imvula brand is entering its second year. Imvula means ‘rain’ -- which equates to wealth and good health in the Xhosa language -- and Thembi is blazing a trail for her children to benefit from.

    “This is the dawn of a new era for us black people in the wine industry,” she told me. While she hopes everyone will enjoy her easy drinking wines, she is focusing on encouraging new wine drinkers in the black community by holding tastings. “These are everyday entry level wines,” she says.

    Thembi has the wines made to her specifications by Wellington Cellars, and her Imvula Pinotage has a friendly 13% alcohol. It is a soft, light fruit driven wine. Maybe not a lot of complexity, but it is certainly pleasurable drinking. Which is exactly what new (and many not so new) wine drinkers are looking for.

    15 October 2007

    Five Pinotage Veritas Double Golds

    Five Pinotages won the coveted Veritas Double Gold – the highest award at the South African National Wine Show (SANW) 2007. Veritas is the country’s longest running wine show and aims to recognise wines of exceptional quality.

    The Sauvignon Blanc category won the most with seven Double Golds, followed by Pinotage, Merlot, Shiraz and Muscadel all with five.

    It is pleasing to see that Pinotage is holding its own with other cultivars, especially Shiraz which some prophesied would sweep Pinotage away and which had the most entries with 220 wines out of a total 1,904 wines competing.

    The five Double Gold winning wines are

    Bon Courage Pinotage 2006
    Longridge Pinotage 2004
    Neil Ellis Pinotage 2006
    Simonsig Redhill Pinotage 2005
    Wamakersvallei La Cave Pinotage 2006

    Congratulations to everyone concerned.

    Full results are online at http://www.veritas.co.za/.

    13 October 2007

    Mellasat's Blanc de Noirs Pinotage

    Mellasat owner/winemaker Stephen Richardson (pictured right) tells me that he is about to launch a white Pinotage under the name Blanc de Noirs (white from black).

    This will be the first commercially released white Pinotage - as far as I know.

    What does it taste like? It is quite clear - there's no trace of pink. It offers a crisp dry nose and palate with a refreshing finish and a bit of floral fullness in the mid-palate and tasting it blind I took it for a dry Chenin.

    Stephen says that he blended in 15% of Chenin Blanc to round the wine out. It is the style of white wine that I enjoy -- but I can't help remembering that Mellasat used to make a pretty good red Pinotage ... and I think I prefer my Pinno red.

    11 October 2007

    Truter wows London's Restaurant Show

    Pinotage guru Beyers Truter flew into London on Tuesday 9 October to present a packed Pinotage master class at the Restaurant Show.

    He gave a brief history of the variety and admitted that it had suffered in the past from technical faults, including being over-oaked and over-alcoholised.

    Beyer's opinion is that the correct Pinotage style is 'classic-balance', and noted that it would age in bottle for many years, and he was currently enjoying wines from 1972 and 1974 that have excellent balance.

    He remarked on the versatility of the variety, including its suitability to make 'Port' because of the high alcohol levels it can achieve, and how rosé wines benefit from Pinotage's up-front fruit flavours. Beyers suggesting drinking his Beyerskloof rosé at 12° C with oysters and he said he preferred drinking it after aging for 2-3 years.

    Unfortunately time ran out too soon. Beyers had been told he had an hour long slot, but in fact it was only 40 minutes as the hall had to be cleared and prepared for the next presentation. But maybe it was for the best since Beyers was getting very enthusiastic by now; getting rounds of applause and gales of laughter in response to his quips and stories and promising to bring a chef and musicians the next time so we could taste Pinotages suitability with a range of foods and he’d get us to sing the Pinotage song he’d written. And you know, by now the normally reticent audience of British restaurateurs would all have joined in

    Ten wines were poured for tasting, they were

    Beyerskloof Rose 2007
    Beyerskloof Reserve 2002
    Kanonkop 2003
    Clos Malverne Reserve 2003
    Laibach 2005
    Simonsig Red Hill 2005
    Stellenzicht Golden Triangle 2005
    Fairview 2006
    Nitida 2006
    Zavenwacht 2005

    06 October 2007

    Mega Tasting - London

    Next week London sees the South African European Mega-Tasting. This is the second Mega, which is intended to replace a multitude of tasting events throught Europe. The idea is that London is easily accessible from anywhere, and is easier and cheaper and quicker to travel to than Cape Town.

    More than250 producers are expected to exhibit and it is thought that the event is probably the single biggest national generic wine event held off-shore by a wine-producing country.

    The show is on Monday and Tuesday 8 & 9 October and although aimed at the trade, will be open to the public on Monday evening from 6 - 8pm. See http://www.winesofsa.com/ for ticket information.

    The catalogue of exhibiting producers is at http://www.wine.co.za/WineLink/ShowMaster.aspx?SHOWID=60

    Mega tasting is at

    Brompton Hall
    Warwick Road
    SW5 9TA

    At 16%abv it's technically a dessert wine

    Jack Berninger writing in the Richmond Times-Despatch (15/08/2007) asked four Virginia winemakers about their favourite wines. At Grayhaven Winery he met Chuck Peple the owner-winemaker "in this family-run business that has been making wine for 12 years."

    Chuck chose his 2005 Pinotage ($30)

    "Grayhaven's Pinotage is a spicy, peppery, full-bodied red with strong cherry notes balanced by the earthy American and French oak barrels used to age this 2005 vintage. The current Pinotage release is technically a dessert wine, not sweet, but boasts a hearty 16 percent alcohol, making it a great sipping wine or after-dinner treat."