21 December 2008

Te Awa’s Outrageous and Opulent Pinotage

Outrageous and opulent -- a taste feast. That is the Pinotage promise on Te Awa's restaurant wine list and who could resist it? The winery adds that ‘this is a statement Pinotage in the world of conformity and mediocrity’.

Never one for conformity, we had a glass of 2005 Pinotage poured while we pondered what meal to order. There was some confusion as we discussed our choices. When the waitress took the first food order it sounded interesting but I couldn’t find it listed on my menu and after swapping menus the reason became clear. We had been given similar but different choices.

Similar problems with the wine. The first glass was showed a wine whose fruit was masked by tannins and had a green stalkiness. I couldn’t detect any obvious fault and wondered if the bottle had been opened too long but I was assured it had been opened that very day. I sloped off to the tasting counter to taste another glass but that was the same. The wine was not undrinkable, just not very forthcoming.

Another glass was poured with the meal, this time from a new bottle and it was like a different wine. Fruit forward with restrained tannins. A softly sweet bouquet and a rather classy firm wine. It was a like a car revving its engines while the brakes were on. You could just taste a hint of galumphing Pinotage flavours wanting to burst forth but they were kept firmly in check.

As to the reason for the difference in the wines; the winery suggested either the heat of the day (it was very hot) affected the wine or it was affected by TCA. This had occurred to me, because at low levels TCA suppresses fruit flavours, which is why I went to the tasting counter to taste another sample. I didn’t then know that when a wine is ordered by the glass at TeAwa wait staff take an opened bottle from the tasting counter to pour at the table then return it. So when I went to try another glass I was in fact tasting from the very same bottle. We’re pretty sensitive to TCA and didn’t detect it in the wine.

Te Awa Estate is in Hawkes Bay (you’ve probably guessed by now that I am in New Zealand) and its vineyards are planted on the famous Gimblett Gravels. The gravels formed the bed of the wide Ngaruroro river that flowed over here until 1867 when an earthquake lifted the land and the river diverted. The ground consists of metres of flat oval grey gravel stones with pockets of sand, soil and silt all deposited by the river over aeons.

TeAwa, whose name is derived from Te Awa o te atua which means 'River of God' in Maori, has seven 300 metre long rows of Pinotage, about 2,100 vines planted in 1994 in an area unsuitable for Pinot Noir. Jenny Dobson made the 2005 and all TeAwa’s previous vintages and she has a real soft spot for Pinotage. Unfortunately Jenny’s time at TeAwa came to an abrupt end earlier this year (she is now at nearby Unison Vineyard) and it will be interesting to see what her successor will make of this non-conformist variety.

“Pinotage is our cult wine which has devoted followers,” they told me at the winery. But they have no plans to plant any more. They’re keeping it a cult.

This is one of the Pinotage rows at Te Awa. You can see the Gimblett Gravel stones under the wines and see that they’ve cleared the canopy to expose the young green grapes to sunlight and air. If you’re visiting TeAwa and want to see these Pinotage vine the rows are about halfway along on the left of the driveway, just after a small gap. They are rows numbered 456 to 662.

18 December 2008

Kari Kari Estate _New Zealand's Most Northerly Pinotage

KariKari Estate is New Zealand’s most northerly. Located at the tip of the Kari Kari Peninsula the winery offers views over its vineyards to the sweep of the Pacific Ocean below breaking on a long white sand beach. Planting started with ten acres in 1998 when the land was purchased by US financier Paul Kelley. The property also contains a beef farm, golf course and villa accommodation at Carrington Resort. A further ten acres of vines has since been planted including Pinotage.

Winemaker Ben Dugdale said “at the end of this peninsula we are effectively island 21 kilometres from shore and have own weather usually missing the storms we can see back there on the mainland. Winds come straight across the sea and we’ve now planted windbreaks. Salt spray can be a problem – its our equivalent of frost damage and if salt gets on the tips or young flowers it burns them just like frost does.

Ben had lined up all of KariKari’s Pinotages.


This was the first Pinotage vintage at KariKari and just three barrels were made. It is soft and warm with gentle cherry flavours and some acid and tannins on the finish. No rough edges, pleasant mature light red wine, not noticeably Pinotage.


This was made by Ben’s predecessor Kim Crawford and was the first vintage from the young Pinotage vines. Mid red colour, dry, light bodied with some dry tannins on the finish from American oakand reminded me of a ‘luncheon claret’. It’s a pretty wine.


Ben’s first vintage at KariKari has a denser colour than the previous and a more complex nose. There’s dark cherry flavours and a dry finish. It’s a delightful wine. Ben said he used French oak for maturation but he during fermentation he bled off a little of the juice which he put in a heavy toasted American oak barrel to finish its fermentation before blending back with the rest. “It gives quite a blast, I wanted to see what happened,” he said. “But I felt it detracted a bit from where I wanted the fruit to go, so I didn’t repeat the experiment.” The previous two had screwcaps but Ben converted to Diam technical corks from this vintage. “I prefer them for aging reds,” he said


Dark garnet, Pinotage nose, good balance with restrained berry fruits, a touch of mocha and tang of soft grained tannins on finish. “I didn’t use any fining agents on this, but I removed some acids. It is still quite tight and needs some years,” says Ben.


This was a tank sample, it is due to be bottled in January ‘09. Good colour interesting nose offers coffee and coconut. There is some serious sweet fruits, it is plumy and spicy with black pepper and tannins kicking in on the black palate. “The key difference with this,” said Ben, “is that we got two and a half times as much fruit in 2007 than before. I was going to remove fruit but the vines were fine, not stressed or unbalanced.” Ben used a little egg white fining to remove some tannins.


This was a barrel sample. It had a most unusual and attractive nose like a scented honey. “Manuka honey,” said Ben and he went to the winery restaurant and returned with a pot of Manuka honey. Manuka is a local bush with white and pale mauve flowers and honey produced from them is prized and is a potent antiseptic. Kari Kari’s Pinotage vineyard is bordered on two sides with Manuka hedges which were in flower when we went to it.

There’s lots of sweet red berry fruits on the palate, some lavender and tannins. This wine has more ‘oomph’ and it is more intense than earlier vintages and it’s pretty amazing. “I think this would be perfect with smoked snapper with a dribble of Manuka honey,” Ben said.

Ben let this vintage ferment naturally using wild yeasts. “With wild yeasts we’re getting closer to a sense of place and I think it’s worth cracking on with it,” Ben told me. He will take it out of barrel in February ’09.

Ben is pleased with Pinotage, “to my mind it has a good future …. but it needs a PR campaign.” He has not tasted many South African Pinotages and would like to put up his Pinotage against the South African’s in the Top 10 competition where he thinks it has a good chance.

14 December 2008

Ascension Rings its Pinotage Bell

Ascension Winery, in New Zealand’s Matakana wine region, was just closing for the day as Sue Courtney and I drove up at 5pm but they stayed open for us to taste their 2007 ‘Bell Ringer’ Pinotage.

This is quite a different style from the 2006 ‘Parable’ which I tasted last year. It is more beaujolais like, light bodied with soft raspberry fruit flavours and 12.5% abv. This style is popular locally and the wine sells well.

Sue Courtney’s tasting note says:
Ascension 'The Bell Ringer' Pinotage 2007
Beautiful light crimson-purple red. Savoury, smoked meat and bacon notes on the nose with rustic wild cherries.Lovely clean savoury flavours, bright and tasty with a silky mouthfeel, juicy cherry and blueberry fruit and a hint of chocolate. The smoky oak from the nose comes through and the finish is distinctively Pinotage gamey. Seems to have taken a different direction from recent previous vintages. It has a lighter touch.

Ascension’s owner Darryl Soljan (pictured) says that Pinotage does every well at Ascension. He has two acres that he planted here in 1996 but Darryl and the Soljan's involvement with Pinotage goes back much earlier with other vineyards and wineries owned by the family.

Many thanks to Sue Courtney, columnist with the Rodney Times and publisher of www.wineoftheweek.com/

08 December 2008

Pinotage Pronunciation - how do you say Pinotage?

I have been using Feedjit for the past few months on this blog. If you scroll far enough down you’ll see the Feedjit Live Traffic Feed panel on the right side.

It shows the country and the link that visitors come from and any search term they used to find The Pinotage Club.

One of the most common searches is for Pinotage Pronunciation and this post from September 2005 is found.

I thought that I should post every now and again specifically to answer the questions people are interested in, so let’s start with Pinotage Pronunciation.

The correct way to say Pinotage is with a short ‘i’ sound, exactly the way you say pin when talking about drawing pins or pins-and-needles. The tage part is pronounced to rhyme with ‘large’, so put them together you get

Pin no targe

What about all the websites that tell you that the Pin of Pinotage is pronounced Peen? Wrong, each and every one of them! They’ve obviously never heard the word spoken in its homeland of South Africa and they are thinking of the way the French say Pinot Noir. Now, it is true Pinot Noir is one of the parents of Pinotage, but Pinotage is not a French variety. It is a South African variety and the South African growers call it ‘Pinnotarge’ -- never ever peeno.

And for final proof, as if any should be needed: Graham Beck Winery’s lifestyle Pinotage is simply labelled as ‘Pinno’.

06 December 2008

Gary returns to Pinotage

April last year v-blogger Gary Vaynerchuck took a good look at Kanonkop Pinotage 2004 which he raved about (see here)

This December he's returned to Pinotage. This time he's looking at three less expensive brands, Nederberg and two names new to me, False Bay and Lion Hunt. The episode is here


02 December 2008

The People Vote for the People's Pinotage

Diemersfontein’s coffee and chocolate Pinotage scored a resounding hat trick of victories at major wine shows in Durban, Cape Town and Johannesburg during 2008.

The public was asked to name the best red wine on show at WineX Cape Town, WineX Johannesburg and at the Mercury Wine Week in Durban, and in each case the majority chose Diemersfontein Pinotage. The wine was also the biggest seller by volume at WineX Johannesburg, where fans backed their votes with their wallets.

WineX director Michael Fridjhon said the Best Wine on Show has become “a meaningful barometer of the style and variety most sought after by the country’s premium wine consumer”.

“That a discerning set of wine consumers in our three biggest cities have rated our Pinotage ‘the best Red Wine’ is the most wonderful accolade that all of us in the team at Diemersfontein could wish for,” says David Sonnenberg, the third generation owner and founder of Diemersfontein wines.

“It is my impression that Winex and Mercury patrons – while certainly there to have a good time - are also pre-occupied with tasting a large range of wines in order to discover and benchmark their favourite varietals and blends from among the SA wine industry’s diverse and excellent Estates. So we are especially appreciative of the public’s endorsement in these instances.”

The popular support for the Diemersfontein Pinotage has surged since it was first produced in 2001 and it has been dubbed “The People’s Pinotage” by respected wine writer Neil Pendock after he conducted a consumer survey.

Diemersfontein's Pinotageis the only South African wine to have its own birthday party. Every year Diemersfontein successfully hosts Pinotage on Tap events – considered to be the winelands’ favourite party - in the Cape and Gauteng to celebrate the release of a new vintage in the company of the wine’s ever-growing legion of fans.

“So many customers write to us very generously and lyrically about the wine – from very experienced and regular wine drinkers to those just starting out on the wine journey. It appears to have bridged many people into a love of red wine and Pinotage in particular. We are delighted that our wines seem to give so many South Africans a lot of pleasure,” says Sonnenberg. And not just South African's -- the wine has a cult following in the UK where it is stocked by Waitrose and woe betide them when they run out.

To celebrate the trio of victories, Diemersfontein is planning a series of fun food and wine evenings across the country. The events will give fans the opportunity to enjoy the wine with exceptional food produced by some of South Africa’s leading chefs

01 December 2008

November's Newsletter

November's newsletter has been emailed out. You can download it by clicking on the front cover image, left.

To be placed on the newsletter mailing list send an email to peter (at) pinotage (dot) org

Please note the new header above. This was designed by Sharief Kamish in South Africa to whom I am very grateful. Sharief also designed the header for The Cru blog

19 November 2008

Kanonkop's Abrie Beeslar is International Winemaker of the Year

Abrie Beeslaar in the old Pinotage vineyard
Abrie Beeslaar, (pictured right) winemaker at top Pinotage winery Kanonkop Estate, is the International Winemaker of the Year it was announced at the International Wine and Spirits Competition's (IWSC) gala award ceremony in Londons last night.

Kanonkop also received the Château Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande trophy for the best blended red wine with its Paul Sauer 2003, as well as the Dave Hughes Trophy for the Best South African Producer.

"It has been a historic year for Kanonkop and it is truly an honour to have been able to share in the winery's successes," Abrie said. "To be awarded this accolade as the world's best winemaker for the year is an honour one never even dreams about, so the award has simply not sunk in yet.

"But I do know that the success belongs to the whole team working in the cellar and vineyards, as well as those who promote our wines throughout the world. But nothing equals the importance of nature with which we are blessed on Kanonkop. It's the soil and the climate that produces the grapes for the wines I am able make to the kind of quality that we are lucky enough to receive this kind of recognition for."

Abrie also added that he sees this award as recognition of South Africa's potential to compete with the best wine producing countries in the world.

"This is the third time that the award has gone to a South African winemaker and should once more prove that our wines are at home with the best in the world."

Abrie's award comes at the end of an outstanding year for Kanonkop. It was the first wine-farm to receive the Château Pichon Langueville Comtesse de Lalande trophy for a third time. And locally Kanonkop was recently named Wine Producer of the Year by the 2009 Platter South African Wine Guide.

Thanks to - www.wine.co.za

17 November 2008

Pinotage in the Papers

"Give the Cape’s indigenous workhorse Pinotage some tender loving care in a vineyard and winery and even at this price level you can be rewarded with a fat, ripe, spicy, inky mouthful," says Jane MacQuitty in the Sunday Times. She's reviewing Tesco's own label 2008 South African Pinotage from Swartland Winery at an attractive £3.63.

Jane MacQuitty upset many South Africans earlier this year when she damned their top red wines, so well done Swartland for finding favour with her at the lowest price level.

Daniel Rogov, writing in Israel's Haaretz newspaper about the latest releases from Barkan Winery, finds their 2006 Pinotage Reserve "Dark but somehow not glistening garnet toward purple in color, showing near-sweet tannins and berry, plum and currant fruits. In the background constant notes of earthy minerals and tobacco. On the finish fruits rise along with both the flavor and aroma of cloves. Drink now-2010. NIS 69. Score 87".
In the Jerusalem Post, Ofer Zemach says of the same wine "Much like the Pinot Noir, the Pinotage is a wine that really benefits from some breathing time. It takes its time in the glass to tease you with its aromas before revealing its full bouquet. The grapes for this wine came from a vineyard in Tel Tzaif in the Judean foothills. Aged for 12 months in oak barrels, the wine has excellent structure with firm tannins and good acidity."

Finally, this piece from Melissa Priestley writing in Edmonton News got my attention:
"You may have also wondered at the multitudes of other grapes bearing “Pinot” in their name. Could there be a connection, you ponder? Indeed, this phenomenon is more than a coincidence — Pinot Noir is prone to genetic mutation. Darwin would have loved this grape, as it has been spawning bastard children for millennia — Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Pinot Meunier, and many others all trace their ancestry to that bitch of Burgundy. Even Pinotage, South Africa’s signature variety, calls Pinot Noir mom (daddy being Italy’s Cinsault — must have been quite the party)."

Indeed :)

13 November 2008

5 Stars for Simonsig and Kaapzicht

5 Star winners in the 2009 Platter Guide to South African Wines have just been announced.

Simonsig 'Red Hill' Pinotage 2006 is the only 5 star varietal Pinotage

Kaapzicht Estate's Steytler Vision 2005, (a blend of 40% Pinotage with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot), is the only Cape Blend.
Congrats to the Malan & Steytler families and their teams.
Platter 2009 can be purchased online from CyberCellar
image taken from Cybercellar's site.

Pinotage is Fairtrade Best South African Red Wine

Sainsbury's Pinotage 2006 won the Best South African Red Wine category at this years Fairtrade Wine Competition, announced in London yesterday.

The aim of the Fairtrade Wine Competition is to raise awareness of the high standard of Fairtrade wines on offer and was first set up by the UK Fairtrade Wine Committee in 2007.

Entries from the three Fairtrade producing countries: Argentina, Chile and South Africa, were up by 30 per cent on last year’s competition, and were judged in September by a panel including Sarah Jane Evans MW, Olly Smith, Jamie Goode, Patricia Langton, Susan McCraith MW, Maria Elener, The Co-operative and Michelle Smith, Sainsbury’s.

Sainsburys supermarkets source their own label wines from a number of producers. It seems the 2006 Sainsbury's Fair Trade Pinotage was made by Citrusdal Cellars.

But Argentina won the Trophies for the Best Overall Fairtrade Wine and the Best Red Wine. The Trophy for White Wine went to South Africa's Isabelo Chenin Blanc 2008.

12 November 2008

Muddy Water's Pinotage Escapes Frost's Worst

This is Muddy Waters vineyard at the start of their summer. Muddy Water make some cracking good Pinotage near Canterbury on New Zealand's North Island.

Viticulturist Miranda Brown says that "the 07/08 season was definitely a mixed bag. The Muddy Water vineyard is sited in a sheltered position at the base of hills. This means we are warmer than other vineyards in the valley and so usually the first to start growing. This also means that we are more vulnerable to frost as our vines are often more advanced and therefore more susceptible. The Friday before Labour weekend saw frosts up and down the whole of New Zealand and Waipara was no exception.

Our frost alarm went off at about 8pm on the Thursday night and there was still frost on the ground the following morning at around 9am. Our hill blocks and later varieties such as the Syrah, Riesling and Pinotage were largely unaffected, but the lower blocks were quite badly frost affected. At the time it was heart breaking to see all the new seasons growth damaged, but fortunately for us that was the only frost for our site that season and as it occurred relatively early in the growing season, the vines had time to recover. The rest of the summer was warm and dry up until about February. Perfect weather over flowering made for excellent fruit set and so by Christmas time it was hard to believe we had been frosted, as crop levels were near normal, in fact many blocks had more fruit than we had had in previous years."

She adds that the farm has made a commitment to go fully organic and they are "dabbling in a bit of biodynamics. Planting our cover crops according to the moon, using valerian preps to help with frost resistance and applying 501 to encourage soil activity. It is early days, but I personally have been trialing it at home in my vege garden and so far I can certainly see the benefits."

Pinotage is a great match with lamb and I wonder if that has a bearing on this piece of news; "We are also now the proud owners of six organic Wiltshire ewes. It is a small flock at the moment but we are hoping to breed and build numbers sufficient to keep down the grass and weeds in and around the vineyard, reducing our need to run the tractor."

Read the full newsletter here

10 November 2008

Enigma - World's First White Pinotage

Just released is Enigma from Mellasat Wines.

It is a white Pinotage, made of 100% Pinotage grapes from the 2008 vintage, barrel fermented and half was then aged in new and second fill oak barrels.

Mellasat's owner-winemaker Stephen Richardson says "whole bunch pressing prevented the juice from obtaining colour from the skins. Barrel fermented and matured for six months with lees stirring gives the wine a slightly creamy, nutty character to balance the tropical fruit and banana flavours. Alcohol 13.5%, residual sugar 2.2 g/litre."

Only 300 cases were made of the 2008 Enigma which retails in the UK for £9.95

Mellasat made a white Pinotage last year which had 15% Chenin blended in, (see here) but since that wine didn't reach the retail market Enigma 2008 takes the record for the worlds first commercially available White Pinotage.

06 November 2008

Three W’s – Warwick, Welmoed & Wolf

My home town of Snorbens is lucky to have a fine independent wine shop in Flagship Wines which is owned and operated by Julia Jenkins who chucked in her high-powered position as wine buyer for Sainsbury’s supermarket to go it alone.

Julia organises many functions and for this past month she has focused on South Africa with shippers and winemakers presenting tastings of wines from Lourensford, Slow Wines, Welmoed, Graham Beck, Kumkani, Warwick Estate, Painted Wolf and more.

I couldn’t let the ebullient Jeremy Borg, owner and winemaker of the new Painted Wolf wines, visit Snorbens without saying hello so I picked up my crutches and dragged my broken leg along to Flagship Wines.

Jeremy was in great form and ,as well as his Pinotage and Cape Blend already opened for the tastings, he had some unlabelled bottles of some new wines he’s working on which he specially opened and poured. A Viognier based blend was invitingly aromatic.

Of course I bought some bottles of Painted Wolf, then Julia mentioned out she had a consignment of Warwick Estate Old Bush Vine Pinotage – which is an old favourite of mine from way back – so without even looking at it I asked her to add a few bottles to my order. Then Julia pointed out an offer on Welmoed Pinotage, discounted to two for £5. I’d had a Welmoed Pinotage a long time ago and it wasn’t a name that impressed. Julia told me that Welmoed was one of the brands of the company of wine people, a name that irritates me no end with its insistence on all lower case letters with different coloured 'p's.

My leg was aching and I let off some moans about the company’s stupid name, and that Welmoed was an anonymous brand made who knows where from who knows what by who knows who (whereas I had walked among Warwick’s old bush vines, and knew who made Painted Wolf). Jeremy let me run out of steam before quietly telling me that he had done work for the company of wine people and that he thought that Welmoed was a pretty good Pinotage for the price. Suitably chastened, I bought a couple of bottles.

And you know what? Jeremy was right. Welmoed Pinotage 2007 turned out to be a jolly enjoyable wine with no rough edges, clean fresh and modern with an attractive raspberry fruitiness. And another plus was that it was closed with a screwcap.

The Warwick was also a surprise. The WO wasn’t the expected Stellenbosch-Simonsberg, which is where Warwick Estate is located and an appellation that owner Mike Ratcliffe had campaigned for, but the wine was labelled as Stellenbosch WO and the back label said that it was made by Warwick Cellars. Warwick Cellars – WTF? Examining the labels in detail I noticed that the word Estate appeared nowhere, and so this wasn’t the Estate wine I thought I’d bought -- the wine made from those 40 year-old bush vines whose vineyards I’d been describing to Julia and Jeremy. This wine was made at Warwick from some, or all, non-estate grapes. Looking carefully at Warwick’s website it seems that 2003 was the last vintage made from Estate grapes, but one is invited to “Download the Warwick Estate Pinotage 2005 fact sheet” and the fact sheet is headed Warwick Estate so there is opportunity for confusion.

But in the glass – wow, this Warwick ‘Cellars’ old bush vine Pinotage 2005 (we now don’t know how old) is tremendous stuff. Complex with different levels of flavours, soft wood tannins underneath, blackberries, a little dark chocolate and a dusting of coffee but always dense black fruits to the fore. Indeed, it was so good that the following day we couldn’t think of any wine we’d prefer to drink so for the first time I can ever recall at Pinotage Club Towers we drank the same wine on two consecutive two nights.

And Painted Wolf? I bought the 2007 Pinotage which I preferred to the (less expensive) Cape Blend. There’s lots going on; as I wrote back in June it is a galumphing big wine and after drinking a bottle, although very enjoyable, I think that needs more time in the bottle for all its flavours to completely meld together, so I’m sticking away the rest of the bottles I bought for a year.

So my visit to see Jeremy and Julia resulted in some surprises for me. So I headed back to to Flagship Wines to stock up on more Welmoed and Warwick Pinotages, but Julia had sold out of Welmoed and was waiting for another delivery. So I paid, collected the Warwick and I'm now waiting for Julia to deliver the Welmoed.

01 November 2008

Open Day at The Home of Pinotage

Beyerskloof, the self-titled Home of Pinotage, will be hosting an Open Day on Saturday 15 November 2008

Activities will include music from Koos Kombuis, vineyard and cellar tours, 10 year old vintage tastings in the cellar, and an abundance of drinking wine and food.

For the young ones there will be pony rides as well as face painting.

Entry is by means of a Beyerskoof Passport which must be purchased in advance as none will be sold on the day.

Passports cost R200 for adults which includes unlimited wine, food, and the above mentioned activities, and R100 for children which includes one pony ride, face painting, food and cool drinks). Passports can be bought from the farm or bookings can be made with Jeanne jeanne@beyerskloof.co.za or 021 865 2135

31 October 2008

Durbanville Hills Pinotage is the Star

Durbanville Hills cellarmaster Martin Moore has been travelling through Canada and the United States promoting his wines. He writes in his current newsletter:

"On the visit to North America the Pinotage was the star of the show, and I found myself sharing many a glass of it over extended lunches with wine writers before rushing to even longer dinners with agents and clients. Agents and their customers often tell us our Pinotage is very different from what is usually produced from this cultivar."

He says it's the cool climate environment in the Durbanville hills that brings out the Pinot Noir heritage resulting in more strawberry and blackberry flavours coming to the fore.

28 October 2008

Lease a Stormhoek Block

If owning a Stormhoek vine isn't enough, now you can lease a block of 200 of Stormhoek's vines and have all the wine they produce delivered to you in personally labelled and numbered bottles.

Stormhoek have teamed up with Barrington's International Vine Leasing Ltd to offer the benefits of owning (part of) a vineyard without having to do all the hard work such as pruning, weeding and spraying. Not to mention staying up all night during vintage time to press down the cap.

With Christmas coming fast, its a present idea for the Pinotage lover who has everything.

Stormhoek's Guava Block vineyard

Avondale Pinotage - The Trouble Wine

Pinotage came out top at a blind tasting of the Williamsburg chapter of the American Wine Society last month.

Debra Gordon writes in Virginia's Newport News "We tasted four reds blind, so we didn't know what they were or how much they cost. When the bags the votes were tallied, the classic South African varietal — Pinotage — came out a clear winner.We love Pinotage. It has a flavor unlike any other I've tasted — funky, complex, yet amazingly fruity. Turns out the rest of our group loved it, too.

The 2006 Pinotage ($14) we tasted came from Avondale, an organic winery located in the Paarl region.

One member described it as 'the trouble wine,' as in: 'the wine that will get you in trouble because you want to keep drinking glass after glass.'"

27 October 2008

Wine Society's New Pinotage

The UK's Wine Society has a new Cape red, and this time it is Pinotage.

The Society's wine-buyer Joanna Locke MW says the wine is an "unusually fresh-tasting, modern Pinotage, which happens to be made from organic grapes, to enjoy while it is young and fruity, or later when its part pinot noir parentage will develop spicier flavours. Try it with Asian foods."

The wine inside comes from 40 year old vines and was made by Bon Cap Organic Winery in Roberston. It is actually their second wine range, 'The Ruins', labelled especially for the Wine Society.

The label was designed by Tanya Tanaka of the Slade School of Fine Art. She says "I was inspired by maps of the regions and the idea of an Old World product in a New World environment."

I last visited Bon Cap in February 2008; my report is here.

26 October 2008

October Newsletter

October's newsletter has been emailed out. You can download it by clicking on the front cover image, left.

To be placed on the newsletter mailing list send an email to peter (at) pinotage (dot) org

22 October 2008

Lovingston - Outside the Bordeaux Spectrum

Lovingston was the first winery I visited on my trip last month to Virginia, USA. The winery is in the rolling foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains and built into a hillside so they can use gravity feed. They make wines on a small scale and they don't pump-overs because they don't want to mechanically handle the wine.

Lovingston have been making Pinotage from vineyard they have leased for a few years and have been so pleased with the results that they have now planted their own Pinotage vineyard on a ridge behind the winery. "We're giving it a shot," says winemaker Riaan Rossouw, "we're very enthusiastic about it. We don't mind at all being outside the Bordeaux spectrum."

This first short video was taken in that new vineyard with its tremendous views. Owner Ed Puckett is on the vehicle and winemaker Riaan Rossouw tells us about growing Pinotage in Virginia and how he doen't mind being outside the Bordeaux spectrum

Then we are in the winery where Riaan discusses making Pinotage in Virginia

Upstairs Ed Puckett tells about how he constructed the winery and how they handle the grapes.

As this clip ends he reveals that they remove the grape seeds during fermentation. I have not previously heard of such a practise, but in Virginia I am told that it is fairly common because the grapes do not usually get to completely full ripeness, and so in the last clip Riaan tells how they remove the seeds.

As you can see, everyone at Lovingston has quality to the forefront, and it shows in their wines.

Many thanks to everyone at Lovingston for showing The Pinotage Club around your winery and vineyards. The movies were taken with my new really neat Flip Mino camera.

18 October 2008

Spex Selex -- Simonsig

Simonsig Pinotage 2004 was chosen as Wine Spectator Online editors Daily Pick for 30 September 2008

James Molesworth says "This has a slightly jammy core of plum and blueberry fruit, with notes of briar, black licorice and coffee. The grape's rustic persona lurks in the background too, with a burly edge on the finish. Drink now through 2009. 5,000 cases made. (87 points, $14) "

Simonsig make two Pinotages. This one is unwooded whereas the 'Redhill' is aged 16 months in oak barrels. The Spex reviewed the Redhill 2004 vintage 18 months ago in March 2007.

17 October 2008

We Can't Meet Demand for Café Culture -- says KWV

Café Culture, launched just one year ago in September 2007, has proved to be a runaway success.

Demand for the wine is so great, especially in the Far East, that KWV CEO Thys Loubser told South Africa's Business Report that "we cannot get enough".

Therefore he has ordered that production of the mocha 'n' chocolate accented Pinotage be increased to exceed one million litres.

15 October 2008

Francois Naude launches his own wine

When Francois Naude stepped down as winemaker at L’Avenir Estate on its sale to Laroche he told me that he was looking forward to not having the day to day responsibility, the night shifts and the call-outs that winemaking involves. As a consultant he would advise and let others carry the burden.

But winemaking is in his blood and he has now started a new venture Le Vin de Françoise, whose first wine – a Pinotage -- sold out its entire production within a few hours*.

Marketing was unusual. Potential buyers were invited to a black-tie function where the Pinotage was auctioned. 200 cases were sold realising an average price of 250R a bottle (about £15.20 or $26.30). Well known Johannesburg steak house owner Alan Pick took home 60 cases of Le Vin de Françoise Pinotage 2007.

Francois is well known for Pinotage. “I am a huge Pinotage fan and was lucky enough to have seven of the nine wines I entered for the ABSA Top 10 Pinotage Competition make the final line up. Pinotage is in my blood, like family, and it was only natural that our first product should be a Pinotage”, he said

Le Vin de Françoise Pinotage 2007 is a blend of barrel selected wines from wineries where Francois has been consulting: Delheim, Hartenberg, Lanzerac, L’Avenir and Neil Ellis.

Packing is special. The bottle is a reproduction of the original Bordeaux bottle used in 1855 The twelve bottle wooden cases that the wine comes in are custom made, stackable and sturdy, and the label a unique work of art from design studio Haumann Smal.

“We wanted to create a “magic” product. A product that would secure the first step for the brand to grow and prosper into something the generations that follow can be proud of” added Francois.

The icon that was used on the label is a wing nut, symbolising the clasping together of family ideals, with the different wines from a variety of terroirs that created this unique wine. Francois also jokingly added that the wing nuts look a little bit like his ears!

* Except for three more cases of the wine were kept back for a public on-line action to benefit The Faith Fund charity. You can place your bid at http://www.levindefrancois.com/ and three cases kept for Francois' own use. In total, just 206 cases of the 2007 vintage was made.

12 October 2008

Beyerskloof wins IWSC Trophy

I've written before about the Beyers Truter Reserve own label made for UK supermarket Tesco. I have bought a goodly number of them myself, and by co-incidence opened a bottle of the 2006 last night.

I'm not the only fan though --- the International Wine & Spirit Competition 2008 recently announced that they'd awarded the KWV Trophy for Pinotage to Beyerskloof for their Tesco Finest Beyers Truter Pinotage 2006.

7000 wines from more than 70 countries were entered into the International Wine & Spirit Competition 2008, the premier competition of its kind in the world, held in London . Amongst the Trophies being announced 15 were open to wines from anywhere in the world. South Africa picked up five trophies and it is remarkable that four of the trophies were won by producers that come from within a radius of ten kilometres. The other three, some from wineries that have appeared on these pages for their Pinotages, are The Mission Hill Family Estate Trophy for Chardonnay presented to Delheim Wines for their Delheim Chardonnay Sur Lie 2007.The Spier Trophy for Merlot presented to Hartenberg for their Hartenberg Merlot 2005. The Chateau Pichon Longueville Comtesse de Lalande Trophy for Blended Red Wine presented to Kanonkop Wine Estate for their Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2003.
Pictured left to right are Beyers Truter (Beyerskloof), Abrie Beeslaar (Kanonkop), Brenda van Niekerk (Delheim) and Carl Schultz (Hartenberg).

Pump-overs give lower colour and anti-oxidents

Results of a four year study into whether the total antioxidant capacity (TAC), colour and phenolic composition of Pinotage wines are affected by growing methods and locations and winemaking practises have been published.

The research by Dalene de Beer, Elizabeth Joubert & Johan Marais into vintages from 2000 to 2003 doesn’t appear to come to any firm conclusions, except that wines from warmer areas and those that underwent the pumping of juice over skin caps gave wines with the lowest TAC and colour saturation.

The full report in Afrikaans is in the magazines August issue and an English version can be read on the Wynboer site at http://www.wynboer.co.za/recentarticles/200808pinotage.php3

27 September 2008

Everybody Loves Grayhaven's Virginia Pinotage

I have been travelling in Virginia, USA visiting three wineries that make Pinotage wines. In the video above I ask Deon Abrams, who is Grayhaven Winery's winemaker and co-owner, about his Pinotage. Deon takes grapes from an established nearby vineyard while he grows and propagates enough of his own Pinotage. As we hear, he can't meet demand and last year needed to augment his Virginia grapes with some brought from California. Deon says that these grapes come in a refrigerated truck in a a few days.

In the video below we look at his own young Pinotage vines in the adjoining vineyard.

Deon was busy in the middle of the vintage. There was a trailer full of sweet Chambourcin grapes waiting his attention in the winery behind the tasting counter, and we greatly appreciate him taking time out to show us around his winery and vineyards.

Deon is South African by birth. He married Max Peple whose parents had bought this farm as a retirement hobby. When the farm got too much for them Max and Deon gave up their high-flying jobs in New York City to take over running the winery.

For some years Grahaven has been running a hugely succesful South Africa Festival at the farm. This year more than 4000 people, including the South African Ambassador, came to taste South African food and wines. Deon imports South African necessities such as Mrs Balls Chutney for the festival and for sale in the tasting room.

Worth a visit -- the winery is about 30 minutes from Charlottesville.

17 September 2008

"Pinotage is too Cheap and too young"

Pinotage is too cheap and too young, says Neil Pendock in his blog at South Africa's Sunday Times newspaper.

After attending a tasting of Stellenzicht's 'Golden Triangle' Pinotages going back to 1998 he found that "one thing was clear: Pinotage improves with age. 2006 is current release (a reasonable R65 a bottle) but on the evidence of this vertical tasting, should be left to its own devices for a decade to develop complexity."

"for Pinotage to ever compete on a level playing field of marketing spend and consumer attention, the price gap will have to be addressed. Do producers lack confidence in Pinotage that it must trade at a substantial discount? Lower retail prices for Pinotage when compared to Cabernet and Shiraz make a telling point," he says.

Neil's grand idea is that a Pinotage Bank be established by ABSA, the sponsors of the Top 10 Competition. The Bank would buy up supplies of Top 10 winning wines in order to age them for at least a decade before releasing them for sale. This was restaurants and wine lovers would have access to matured Pinotage.

It was the oldest of the Stellenzicht Pinotages that inspired Neil. The 1998 vintage "was pure Burgundy with barnyard, bruised strawberries and biltong (and that was just the “b”s) while the ’99 was a subtle symphony of elegance and finesse."

But I thought the 2006 was drinking pretty darn good when I had it earlier this year - my review here.


08 September 2008

Cape Blends and Pinotages at 2008 CWG Auction

Cape Winemakers Guild annually auctions rare small production special wines made by their members. This year’s auction, the 23rd, will be on Saturday 27 September 2008 at the Cape Town International Convention Centre.

Niels Verburg, owner/winemaker of Luddite, was in London last week showing the wines.

Of interest to Pinotage fans are Cape Blends from Danie Steytler of Kaapzicht Estate and Beyers Truter of Beyerskloof, who also has a varietal Pinotage in the auction. These three were available to taste. Not available for tasting, but in the auction is a mature CWG Pinotage last auctioned in 2001. This is Hidden Valley CWG Pinotage 2000 made by Jeremy Walker of Grangehurst

It was interesting to compare two Cape Blends from recognised masters of the style.

Kaapzicht Cape Blend Auction Reserve 2006 (Cabernet Sauvignon 50%, Pinotage 30%, Merlot 20%) WO Bottelary, 14.29%abv. Danie says the three cultivars were vinified separately, then the best tanks went to new French oak barrels sourced from three different coopers for 24 months. The best barrels were selected for blending for this wine of which 1320 bottles were made. 50 cases of 6 are in the auction. Danie reckons it needs at least 4-6 years “for the treasures to be revealed.”

I found dense fruit in this tight firm tannic wine that cried out for decanting. I found it acidic on the finish

Beyerskloof Cape Blend 2006 (Pinotage 41%, Shiraz 41%, Cabernet Sauvignon 9%,Merlot 9%) WO Stellenbosch, 14.47%abv. This is a barrel selection from wine aged 18 months in new French oak. 3318 bottles were made, of which 66 boxes of 6 are in the auction.

This is more approachable, with bright sweet black fruits. It feels light bodied and a bit dusty, and sharp on the finish.

I was disappointed with the finish of both wines which seemed overly acidic. I’m pushed to say which I prefer: for immediate drinking I’d choose the Beyerskloof but think both are made for the long haul when that acidity will have subdued.

Beyerskloof Pinotage 2006
WO Stellenbosch 14.74%abv.

Beyers Truter says that these wines came from pre-selected blocks, aged for 18 months in two-thirds new French oak barrels, and then barrel selected for CWG.

Soft and gentle with ripe dusty plum and blackberry fruit flavours, layers of complex fruits leading down to a framework of structured tannins and balanced fruit acids. Perfect.

The 2006 vintage has been, in my opinion, Beyerskloofs best. The basic white label Pinotage is a great everyday wine - and marvellous with a take away from the Indian restaurant, the Tesoc's own label Reserve is excellent and the black label Reserve is superb. Two more 2006, another Reserve bottling and one named Diesel (in remembrance of a sadly missed dog) both won in last months Top 10.

And for the future the 2007 white label is now in my local shops and tastes great also.

06 September 2008

What kinds of wine go well with yak?

"So what kinds of wine go well with yak?" was the question asked by Vermont Yak Company.

They asked Joerg Klauck of importers Vermont Wine Merchants and he had a good idea! See the video here .

Ok, Ok, you've already guessed Pinotage was the answer, but note how Joerg is careful to recommend avoiding the cheapest versions....

And the suggested wine? "It proved phenomenal," they said.


05 September 2008

Quote of the Month - September

"I just love deep, meaty, full wines … wines that you’d have with red meat.

There was a great wine that I had when filming Goodbye Bafana in South Africa, a Diemersfontein Pinotage, which had an amazing clove finish to it. I’m not sure I’ve ever tasted clove in a glass before. I loved it so much that I ordered a case the next day and had it shipped back to the States. It never arrived, so somebody out there is enjoying it. [Laughs.]

I’ve had trouble finding a South African Pinotage here in Los Angeles, although I’ve found other South African wines."

Actor Dennis Haysbert, who has been in films (Breach, Jarhead, Far From Heaven) and television (24, The Unit), and recently played South African president Nelson Mandela in the feature film Goodbye Bafana, being interviewed by Betsy Model in Wine Spectator 4 September 2008

02 September 2008

Loads of free Pinotage at Sing Faith

The first Sing Faith Concert will be held on 6 September at the Hugo Lembrecht Auditorium in Parow.

Guests can expect an evening of entertainment and relaxation.

Performers are giving their services free in aid of the charity FAITH (Foetal Alcohol Syndrome and Interrelated Help).

FAITH is the charity founded by Pinotage King Beyers Truter who says that "it will be a great night and there will be loads of free Pinotage flowing through the music notes."

Tickets from Computicket includes free wine, a finger-buffet and tea & coffee. More information from Ina Viljoen at 083 463 4090.

See the flyer by clicking here

27 August 2008

Truter's Two Times Top 10 Triumph !

History was made today when Beyerskloof’s owner and winemaker Beyers Truter accepted the Top 10 prize twice. For the first time in the competition’s history two wines entered from the same winery had both been selected for the ABSA Pinotage Top 10 Competition.

Truter stepped up to accept two winner's awards at a ceremony held earlier today, 27 August, at Neethlingshof Estate near Stellenbosch.

The 2008 winning wines are :-

Anura Pinotage 2007
Beyerskloof Diesel Pinotage 2006
Beyerskloof Reserve Pinotage 2006
Cloof Pinotage 2005
DeWaal Top of the Hill Pinotage 2006
Fairview Primo Pinotage 2007
Rijk’s Private Cellar Pinotage 2004
Simonsig Red Hill Pinotage 2006
Stellenzicht Cellarmaster’s Release Pinotage 2005
Tukulu Pinotage 2006

All but three of this years winners had won previously. "We have seen the quality of wines in the Absa Top 10 Pinotage Competition improve year-on-year and what is more encouraging is that new winemakers are continuously joining the competition. Experience, consistency, commitment and focus can however never be replaced and this year we have seen a number of the more experienced winemakers come out on top,” said Robert Emslie, Executive Director with sponsor Absa Corporate & Business Bank at the awards ceremony on 27 August 2008.

Beyerskloof historic winners are Beyerskloof Diesel Pinotage 2006 and Beyerskloof Reserve Pinotage 2006. They are the third and fourth wins for the Beyerskloof label, and winemaker Beyers Truter eighth and ninth Top 10 wines, having previously won seven times when winemaker at Kanonkop.

Guy Webber’s Stellenzicht wins for the fourth consecutive year with his sixth Top 10 wine.

Daniël de Waal of Uiterwyk Estate gains his sixth win with the Top of the Hill, the world oldest Pinotage vineyard, after a break of four years.

It is a fifth Top 10 win in nine years for Tukulu, the flagship black empowerment brand, this time with winemaker Samuel Viljoen

Simonsig Estate have a second consecutive wine with their Red Hill Pinotage 2006. It is their fourth winning wine in eight years.

Pierre Wahl at Rijk’s Private Cellar produced their fourth winning wine in eight years.

First time winners are

Anura 2007, with winemakers Carla Pauw and Johnnie Calitz

Cloof 2005 whose winemaker is Christopher van Dieren

Fairview Primo 2007 with winemaker Anthony de Jager.

Five of the 2008 Absa Top 10 Pinotage winners are from the 2006 vintage, two from the 2007 vintage, two from the 2005 vintage and one from the 2004 vintage. Five of the winning wines are from the Stellenbosch district, two from Darling and one each from Paarl, Tulbagh and the Coastal region. It is only the second time that wines from more than 3 vintages reached the Top 10.

The 10 runners up are
Conradie Barrel Selection Reserve 2007
Deetlefs Oak Matured 2007
Groot Constantia 2006
Môreson 2007
Raka 2007
Roland’s Reserve 2006
Spier Private Collection 2005
Wamakersvallei La Cave 2006
Welbedacht 2006
Windmeul Reserve 2007

Presentation packages of the 2008 Absa Top 10 Pinotage wines will soon be available for sale in South Africa from the Wine-of-the-Month-Club.

Tel. 021-6578100.
E-mail: wineclub@wineofthemonth.co.za


25 August 2008

Simonsig's Brut Rosé renamed Kaapse Vonkel Rosé

Simonsig's popular Pinotage based Brut Rosé methode champenoise sparkler is changing its name.

In future it will be Kaapse Vonkel Rosé, bringing it into line with their famous white Kaapse Vonkel .

Kaapse Vonkel means Cape Sparkle and Kaapse Vonkel was the first methode champenoise wine to be made in South Africa.

2008 vintage is the 40th anniversary of Simonsig wines and it is looking good.

"Our Pinotage yields were higher, with all the different vineyards producing top-notch wines which already flaunt more elegance and finesse than their predecessors," says Cellarmaster Johan Malan .

22 August 2008

Mature Pinotage Parcels Released by Bergkelder

Mature Pinotages from Durbanville Hills, Fleur du Cap, Jacobsdal, Tukulu and Zonnebloem have just been released by the Bergkelder Vinoteque.

The oldest is a 1996 from Jacobsdal. These wines have been stored in the Bergkelder (literally Mountain Cellar which are cellars dug deep into a hill in Stellenbosch) until they reached maturity and optimum drinking time so they are now readyto be enjoyed.

An order form with details and prices, which include delivery anywhere in South Africa, is here http://www.vinoteque.co.za/pdf/specialrelease.pdf

20 August 2008

Pinotage in North Carolina

Where is this Pinotage growing was the question posed in the last post. Grant Liddell, from Hermanus in South Africa's winelands correctly guessed North Carolina.

These grapes are in a vineyard at Villa Kleinheksel in North Carolina, USA.

Owner Brent Kleinheksel says “My Pinotage is looking good...it's a different grape....we are in a drought now, and most of my other varietals had poor fruit set as a result. Not the Pinotage, it really puts out full clusters. The drought has kept the vigor down, and I heard that is very key to making a good Pinotage. It ripens very early and the sugars shoot up so fast...it's tough to keep the bees and the birds out it... I do love Pinotage though...I've been drinking a Pinotage from Vino Con Brio in California. It took a few years for it to calm down, but the 2000 vintage is pretty good now. My whole family now loves Pinotage...specifically Stormhoek.. Which must be South Africa. My favorite is still Te Awa Farms in New Zealand. I hope Pinotage stays a secret...because it can be such a great wine.”

Unfortunately Brent need to move for family reasons and the property is for sale. Brent says “I will be sad to sell the vineyard... But I've found I love drinking wine much more than I do fighting all the disease and weather issues in North Carolina...I don't like to spray chemicals and being organic is almost impossible here...but I did get by with only 2 fungicide sprays this year...no pesticides and no herbicides...so for this area, that's pretty good. “

The first Pinotage vintage is due this year. “I am very excited,” Brent tells me.

Brent’s Villa Kleinheksel blog is at www.greatncwines.com

photographs (c) Copyright Brent Kleinheksel and used by permission

15 August 2008

Where is this Pinotage Vineyard?

You can see the distinctive Pinotage leaf with its toothlike indentation, and look at those plump healthy grapes.

This vineyard is not in South Africa, so can you guess where in the world are they growing?

photographs (c) Copyright Brent Kleinheksel and used by permission

10 August 2008

Worth Winning - World Cup Pinotage

The Pinotage Association has asked FIFA to designate Pinotage as the official wine for the 2010 Football World Cup, which will take place in South Africa in June and July 2010. This is the first time the World Cup has been held in Africa.

Cobus Dowry, Minister of Agriculture for Western Cape, came out in strong support and has undertaken to present the request to the World Cup Committee. "The Department of Agriculture Western Cape wholeheartedly supports the initiative and agrees that 2010 Soccer World Cup is the ideal opportunity to present a truly unique South African wine. Pinotage wine at the official functions during the World Cup celebrations will assist to strengthen the image and value of Pinotage," he said.

Beyers Truter, Pinotage Association Chairman, said that South Africa has practical and patriotic reasons for promoting Pinotage as a grape variety that provides wines of superior quality. He said "If the request is accepted, we will donate a sufficient quantity of wood-matured Pinotage wine for official functions and for participants and winners of the 2010 Soccer World Cup. We do not want to become involved in the commercial opportunities, as there are enough cellars and other instances that are structured to do this."

The 2010 World Cup Pinotage wines will be selected by a panel of experts and will be bottled under a generic Pinotage label..

Although Pinotage grapes became part of the SA national vineyards at a much later stage than the classic European red wine cultivars, it produces nearly 15% of the total tonnage of red wine grapes harvested in South Africa. The international demand for Pinotage wines is thus clearly illustrated by the fact that it comprises about 11% of all these natural wines exported from South Africa.

The Pinotage Association also requested South African Airways to name one of their aeroplanes ‘Pinotage’ on the route between London and Cape Town in order to increase the awareness of the variety.

From left:-
Beyers Truter (Pinotage Association Chairman), Minister Cobus Dowry, Gert Boerssen (Pinotage Association Board Member).

08 August 2008

Steyter by Kaapzicht Estate 2001 ~ Perfect Pinotage

From vineyards high on the slopes of Bottelary Hills you can see ships in the hazy distance entering Cape Town harbour. The view inspired the name of this family owned estate. Kaapzicht means Cape View, and the Steytler have been growing grapes there on the hillls since they bought the farm in 1946. They sold their first wines under the Kaapzicht label in 1984. Danie Steytler is the wine maker, his wife Yngvild travels the world marketing it and Danie’s brother George is the viticulturist and manages the farm and his wife Mandy manages the function rooms and self-catering cottage.

Danie makes quite a large range of wines both red and white, but his top two wines are both red and labelled as Steytler by Kaapzicht Estate. They are a 100% Pinotage and a Cape Blend called Vision which is a Cabernet, Pinotage and Merlot blend and both have garnered multiple awards over the year.

I have been keeping this 2001 Steytler Pinotage for some years and I was in two minds whether to open it or keep it till 2011. Impatience won.

Kaapzicht Estate
Steytler Pinotage 2001
WO Stellenbosch 15%abv

This vintage won one of Platters rare 5 star awards; they called it a ‘perfect Pinotage’, so I’m expecting great things. As the cork is lifted a most spicy bouquet scents the air and the initial tastes are of spices and fruits of the forest. It is medium bodied, elegant and really quite sweet on the finish, with impressions of pencil shavings and cedar wood, and there’s an intimation of age with a faint scent of cabbage. As time passes, toffee and caramel flavours come to the fore. After thirty minutes the up-front berry fruit flavours are fading and cabbage and toffee are coming to the fore. And then my glass was empty….. I think I made the correct decision in opening the wine as I really enjoyed it - and that is what drinking wine is about - but I have a nagging feeling that maybe the wine was at the point where it was starting to transform into one of those ageless Pinotages which keep for decades showing Pinot Noir characteristics. I have one bottle of this wine remaining – now shall I keep it and see?

Danie has made some interesting short videos where he talks about his wines and shows the vineyards. Take a look at them at www.kaapzicht.co.za

06 August 2008

Pinotage Top 10 -- The Finalists

The 20 finalists for the 2008 Pinotage Top 10 competition are:

  • Anura 2007 WO Paarl
  • Beyerskloof Diesel 2006 WO Stellenbosch
  • Beyerskloof Reserve 2006 WO Stellenbosch
  • Cathedral Cellar 2005 WO Coastal Region
  • Cloof 2005 WO Darling
  • Conradie Barrel Selection Reserve 2007 WO Nuy
  • Deetlefs Oak Matured 2007 WO Breedekloof
  • DeWaal Top of the Hill 2006 WO Stellenbosch
  • Fairview Primo 2007 WO Paarl
  • Groot Constantia 2006 WO Constantia
  • Môreson 2007 WO Coastal Region
  • Raka 2007 WO Western Cape
  • Rijk's Private Cellar 2004 WO Tulbagh
  • Seidelberg Estate Roland's Reserve 2006 WO Paarl
  • Simonsig Redhill 2006 WO Stellenbosch
  • Spier Private Collection 2005 WO Stellenbosch
  • Stellenzicht Cellarmaster's Release 2006 WO Stellenbosch
  • Tukulu 2006 WO Darling
  • Wamakersvallei La Cave 2006 WO Wellington
  • Welbedacht 2006 WO Wellington

From these twenty the Top 10 will be selected and it is going to be tough. There are some famous names and great winemakers in the running and they cannot all be in the Top 10.

The second wine on the list is a new one to me. Apparently it is a prestige bottling from Beyers Truter retailing at 250R, more than twice the cost of the Reserve. The wine is named after Beyers' sadly missed dog, Diesel .

The 10 winners will be announced on 27 August.


03 August 2008

Top 10 Panel Tastes 138 Wines

Last week the 2008 Pinotage Top 10 Judging Panel tasted 136 wines, including eleven first time entries, over three days. This year’s judges, pictured above, (front row from left) were Graham Nash, Wendy Burridge and David Biggs ( back row from left ) Gert Boerssen, Francois Naudé,. Duimpie Bayly CWM (convenor), and Chris Roux.

International judge Graham Nash is product development manager and wine trader for UK supermarket Tesco and Thresher wine stores. His main task is to evaluate the quality of wines and he focuses on France, Germany and South Africa.

"I am very impressed with the Pinotage wines we judged. Most of the wines show a classic balance of fruit and wood treatment, as well as a good combination of complexity and elegance,” said Graham. “There are many rich, full-bodied wines that are also accessible. These Pinotage wines show a red cultivar with personality and distinctive characteristics. It can be compared with the highest quality wines of all the international wine cultivars. I have been tasting South African wines for quite a while now and Pinotage is showing more constant quality, year after year."

Duimpie Bayly said that the majority of the entries showed the best style and structure since he has been involved as a Top 10 Pinotage judge.

"It seems as if the 2006 and 2007 vintages delivered most of the top wines, with excellent balance and versatility, wines that will complement various dishes. These are not blockbuster wines and most of them can compete internationally,” said Duimpie."The flavours of mulberry, ripe plums and hints of tropical fruit stood out as typical of the cultivar. There was consensus about the wines that reached the finals and the wines that received the highest ranking. The wines were obviously tasted blind and we are looking forward to the results."

Winning wines will be announced on 27 August, during a lunch time ceremony at Neethlingshof Estate near Stellenbosch.

01 August 2008

Crianza Pinotage?

Cathy van Zyl MW thinks she may have the solution of how to identify the style in which a Pinotage has been made. She takes her inspiration from France and Spain.

"We could have Pinotage Nouveau to denote an unoaked, fruity wine intended for consumption within a year, maximum two, of production", she blogs. "Then, there’d be something like ‘Crianza’, and here wines could have been aged for a minimum period of time with wood (that is, either in it or with it – that is, staved or chipped) but still be for youthful, uncomplicated drinking. It would be a fruity wine flavoured with, and given texture by, oak … for those who like the flavours and textures of oak.

"We could move to a ‘Reserva’ category, which could denote an extended period of time in wood (note, not ‘with’ wood) and that would be made in a style that is structured for three to six years of aging, and finally, could we also have a category similar to ‘Gran Reserva’ for wines which have been crafted to be aged for at least a decade?"

It is an intriguing idea that has merits. But would the Pinotage wine makers welcome more regulation in an industry that, even after the end of the KWV's iron grip, is still heavy with rules and bureaucracy. And would they ever agree to the suggested parameters or names? The Cape Blend project suggests not...


30 July 2008

Babich Winemakers Reserve 1999

Less than 150 years ago the land where this vineyard is now planted was under water. This is New Zealand’s Gimblett Gravels in Hawkes Bay, on the east coast of the North Island. 150 years ago this was a flat coastal plain over which a wide river's many channels meandered on their way to the sea. An earthquake in 1867 tilted the land and the river changed course leaving the river bed dry.

Under a thin layer of topsoil the ground is composed of gravel pebbles that go down for many metres, sometimes interspersed with layers of silt and clay, all deposited by the river over aeons. Vines planted on these beds of flat smooth grey oval gravel pebbles must search for sustenance far down in one of the islands of silt and clay. The land doesn’t hold water and so drip irrigation is a must for vines to survive. Poor soil means less vigorous growth, small berries and more intense flavours. The unique terroir with temperatures 3°C higher than surrounding areas, close proximity to the sea and its cooling effects and the skill of grape growers combine to produce what many believe are New Zealand’s best wines, including Babich Winemakers Reserve Pinotage.

The family owned Babich Wines was founded in 1916. Babich now own vineyards in four regions of New Zealand with the majority of them in Hawkes Bay on the east coast of the North Island, where the Gimblett Gravels are.

In the Cape in 2001 we held the first international Pinotage tasting and to everyone’s surprise, by just one point, Babich 2001 Winemakers Reserve came top. “But this is Pinotage!" exclaimed Chairman of the Pinotage Association Beyers Truter who had been certain that it was South African.

The back label says “Enjoyable now, it will improve for several years in the cellar.” It is now seven years later, the wine is nine years old. How has it held up?

Babich Wines
Winemakers Reserve
Pinotage 1999
Gimblett Road Vineyard
Hawkes Bay 14% abv

Dry raisin nose, maybe a bit Port like, but on the palate there’s an initial burst of sweet blueberry flavours. It is a big wine, really spicy and tangy and there is there is an underlying layer of Christmas fruitcake. Soft, barely present vanilla tannins with a lick of caramel and warm rich blueberry ripeness. This is a delicious wine, but it is probably time to drink up should you have any left.


28 July 2008

Quote of the Month - July

"Although I have never won a Pinotage Top 10 award, I am hoping I will eventually make a success of it. It's such a wild, noble, challenging grape. Like a race horse, it can smell fear on a winemaker at 20 paces." - Flagstone's Bruce Jack quoted in Wineland Magazine, May 2008.

(If you're wondering why this wasn't the QotM for May, it is because I have only just received the May issue here in England.)

25 July 2008

10 Years Ago

"Passionate about Pinotage" is what we were called in July 1998 by the the South African newspaper The Dispatch and which we reported in our newsletter of that month.

We're still passionate and have just published the July 2008 issue of the Pinotage Club newsletter.

This has been emailed to everyone on the newsletter mailing list, and it can be viewed or downloaded from here or by clicking on the cover image.

Most computers will already have the Adobe Reader software necessary to read PDF documents and if not it can be downloaded free of charge from http://www.adobe.com/products/reader/