19 March 2009

Pinotage Tops Chinese Challenge

Pinotage was voted the favourite red wine of Chinese consumers at the Grape Wall Challenge last Friday in Beijing, China when Foot of Africa Pinotage 2006, made by Kleine Zalze in Stellenbosch, won first place

Judges tasted 23 red wines that retail in China for under 100 Renminbi (about £10.10 or $15USD or 140 ZAR)

The challenge aimed to find good but affordable wines and to involve consumers in the process. Judging was done by teams of 6 consumers and 6 experts. The consumers team were asked to rate each wine as 'love it', 'like it', 'dislike it' or 'hate it'. The experts panel included wine makers and lecturers who used the 20 point scale to score wines. The experts gave 9th place to the Pinotage, but when the two teams scores were combined Foot of Africa Pinotage was in third place.

Read the full report here. Thanks to Jim Boyce of grapewallofchina.com who organised the tasting for permission to use these photographs.

Foot of Africa Pinotage can be seen below, third from the right in the front row

Photographs ©Copyright Jim Boyce grapewallofchina.com

16 March 2009

"Pinotage has undergone a change" -- Grape

Pinotage expert Angela Lloyd has been tasting 96 varietal and 24 Pinotage blends for WINE magazine and she’s blogged some interesting thoughts in Grape.co.za on where Pinotage is today.

She says

“That Pinotage has undergone a change, there is no doubt. Our line up clearly showed that aggressive acetone character and those thin, rough tannins are just about a thing of the past. Today, the profile encountered may feature generous black cherry, summer pudding or raspberry aromas, rich, silky flesh with refreshing acid and those troublesome tannins, taut but well-manicured. Oaking too is more often complementary and harmonious.”

She expects WINE will award 2 and 3 star ratings to these “joyful, approachable wines with their juicy red fruit and, hopefully pocket-pleasing prices” which will give no “indication of just how enjoyable they are to drink now.”

She also has some words for coffee Pinotages which she calls a “cynical recipe” for “coffee masquerading as wine”.

Read the whole article at Grape.co.za

14 March 2009

Reyneke's Pinotage is "Another classic"

"I also hugely enjoyed Johan Reyneke’s superb Pinotage 2005 (£12.50), again biodynamic, a deep ruby red from Stellenbosch in South Africa, with a gorgeous smell of creamy black cherries and plums, chocolate and spice and then backed up by silky smooth tannins. Another classic."
-- Helen Savage, writing about ethical trading in Newcastle's The Journal on 13 March 2009 .

I am delighted to learn that Reyneke's Pinotage is available in the UK. Johan Reyneke, pictured above, was the first farmer in South Africa to convert to Biodynamism and it was his Pinotage vineyard that was the first. The results from that trial were so impressive that he turned went competely over to biodynamic farming.

Almost the entire entire production from that small Pinotage vineyard has been earmarked by US customers, so much so that Johan was hard pressed to find one bottle for me when I visited him.

But the 2005 vintage is [UPDATE = NO LONGER] available from Ethical Superstore at http://www.ethicalsuperstore.com/products/ethical-fine-wines/reyneke-pinotage-stellenbosch-south-africa/ at £12.50 a bottle.
Despite the wine still being listed as "In Stock. Available for despatch tomorrow" and accepting an order from me for 6 bottles, it seems they have only one bottle in stock A brief phone message was left with someone else in my house that "the Stellenbosch wine" is unavailable. They could not tell the name of the wine and since I have a number of wines on order it wasn't until a got an abrupt email from them saying "Order Status:Cancelled" that I knew. There was no apology, no nothing, just "Order Status:Cancelled".

Ethical Superstore was set up in 2006 by Vic Morgan and Andy Redfern with the manifesto help the ethical consumer “Buy What You Believe”.

03 March 2009

M'Hudi on TV

A three part series on wine came to an end last night with the final programme titled ‘The Future’ focusing on two South African wine brands, M’Hudi and Solms-Delta.

The programme irritated me from the start because they mispronounced Pinotage and called it “a hybrid varietal that remains stubbornly unpopular abroad”. The programme tried to create suspense with the annual visit of Marks & Spencer’s wine-buyers and whether would buy M’Hudi’s Pinotage. M&S already stock the other two M’Hudi wines, Sauvignon Blanc and Merlot and the chances of taking a third, bearing in mind another wine in M&S’s portfolio would have to be delisted, are almost non-existent. But there were no surprises since we already know that M’Hudi’ s Pinotage is not in M&S. There was no discussion of why no other buyers than M&S was considered.

Another focus was on the International Wine Challenge and whether M’Hudi Pinotage and Solms-Delta’s new sweet wine would get awards. Interestingly the programme showed this new semi-sparkling sweet red low alcohol (9%abv) Shiraz being fermented in barriques, which seems most unlikely for a cheap mass market wine

Initially the two farmers seemed to be on opposite ends of the spectrum. M’Hudi is the first black owned vineyard, bought by the Rangaka family who live in a ramshackle tin-roofed cottage among broken machinery and straggling bush vines while Solms Delta has been in the same family for generations who live in a grand Cape Dutch mansion among a landscaped garden and neat trellised vines.

The programme brought out a number of similarities and parallels between the two

  • The Rangaka’s of Mhudi are new owners, having bought their farm in 2003
  • Solms-Delta was inherited by Mark Solms and their first wine was bottled in 2004

  • Oupa Rangaka was a university professor and dean
  • Mark Solms is a brain specialist and translator of the works of Sigmund Freud

  • M’Hudi has black owners whose wines are marketed at sophisticated middle class wine drinkers via Marks & Spencer in Britain
  • Solms-Delta has white owners who are producing sweet fizzy wine for non-wine drinking black people in Africa

  • M’Hudi is bankrolled by government grants and loans
  • Solms-Delta is bankrolled by partner Richard Astor

At the IWC M'Hudi Pinotage got a Bronze medal whiled Solms-Delta's lambrusco like wine failed to win anything.

Oupa Rangaka seemed a little restrained on the programme, but maybe there just wasn't enough time to show him in full speech mode!

The programme blurb says "via the struggles of these two remarkable men, wine becomes a prism through which to view the current state of the Rainbow Nation." Discuss.....

The programme will be repeated on Sunday 9 March at 19:00 on BBC4 and is available via the internet on BBC iPlayer for those in the UK or anyone who can trick the website that their IP address is in the UK. See http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b00j0g7v

02 March 2009

Tasting Pinotage Blends in London

To London for the first time for more than four months for a tasting of Top End Blends organised by WoSA. What strikes me is just how expensive SA wines are getting. £36 for a Merlot blend? £17 for Nederburg's blend of eight white varieties, the sort of thing that Flagstone used to do in a £5 Noon Gun?

Several of the reds have a Pinotage element, but I’ll concentrate on those that have a least 30% Pinotage as per Cape Blend conventions and I’ll list them in descending order of Pinotage proportions.

Cloof Inkspot Vin Noir 2005, (Darling) 14.83%abv.

78% Pinotage, 12% Shiraz, 10% Cinsaut.

Quite edgy, soft talcum powder texture with dried plum and raisin flavours. £8.99

Middlevlei 2006 (Stellenbosch) Middlevlei pioneered this blend of equal shares of Pinotage and Merlot and 14%abv.

This has an attractive sweet nose and a soft classic taste. It is restrained, softly well balanced with sweet berry fruits and a touch of vanilla custard on the finish.. £9.99

Stellenzicht Rhapsody 2006 (Stellenbosch)

has equal shares of Pinotage and Shiraz. 15.28%abv.

Rhapsody is Guy Webber’s pride and joy but I don’t think this particular wine is showing well; it’s a bit rough and has a hot finish, not at all like previous examples. £24.50

Kaapzicht Steytler Vision 2005 (Stellenbosch).

50% Cabernet Sauvignon 40% Pinotage, 10% Merlot 15.1% abv.

Mouth filling well rounded sweet fruit over tannins. Surprising restrained Bordeaux like but with a really attractive spiciness and ripe fruit sweetness. £19.99

Lyngrove Shiraz Pinotage 2004, (Stellenbosch).

70% Shiraz, 30% Pinotage.
Really nicely balanced wine, a thoroughbred not showing its 14%abv. £7.99

Dekkers Valley Revelation 2004 (Paarl).

41% Shiraz, 32% Pinotage, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon. 14%abv

Warm fruit nose leads into a lovely plummy wine, really very enjoyable. £7

I rated Kaapzicht and Middlevlei the best of the bunch, but the discovery of the tasting was Dekkers Valley, second label Mellasat, which offered a really enjoyable drink at the lowest price point.