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