27 September 2008

Everybody Loves Grayhaven's Virginia Pinotage


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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.


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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.


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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.


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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