Beyers Truter, Chairman of the producers Pinotage Association and owner of Beyerskloof Winery, invited a group including winemakers and journalists to his beach side house in Vermont, near Hermanus, this week for a tasting of Pinotages covering five decades from the 1960’s to now. Among those present were Pinotage winemakers Abrie Beeslaar (Kanonkop Estate), Etienne Louw (Altydgedacht Estate), Hannes Storme (Ashbourne, Southern Right), DeWet Viljoen (Neethlingshof Estate) and writers Christian Eeedes, Emile Joubert, Fiona McDonald, Neil Pendock and myself.
There were five flights of wines, one for each decade, starting with the 1960s. The first varietal Pinotage that was commercially available was the 1959 vintage released under Stellenbosch Farmers Winery’s Lanzerac brand.
The tasting was chaired by Pinotage Association Executive Committee member Duimpie Bayley CWM
Clear brilliant brick colour but not looking as old as its years. The wine has been decanted so there hardly any sediment in the glass.
The nose is of a mature long aged wine and reminiscent of toffee.
First impression on tasting is of a thin wine, soft with cough drop and savoury flavours -- Neil Pendock thought "umami" -- and high acidity. It has a surprisingly long finish.
Deep red core, bricking at edges and some fine grainy black sediment – though I had a pour from the last of the bottle.
Lavender fruit on nose.
More fruit on this wine, red currants and berries, lick of cedar and again high acidity.
The wine is sweet and drinkable with fruits though thinning.
This flight was a real surprise. Two wines made more than forty years ago from young vines of a new variety, and made for immediate drinking have shown an amazing staying power. Duimpie Bayley says they have been stored in optimum conditions -- around 16 degrees -- in an underground cellar. The corks were in good condition.
Duimpie says they used to harvest between 22-24 brix so the finished wine would be about 12-13% abv and “they had a formula, or recipe, in that they’d regularly add a pound (456 grammes) of tartaric acid to a leaguer (575 litres) of juice. In those days no fining was done, they’d age in large 1,000 and 4,000 litre wooden barrels.
Duimpie worked at Stellenbosch Farmers Winery (SFW), who owned the Lanzerac brand and introduced Pinotage to the market. The first Pinotage was in a claret shaped bottle but from the 1960 vintage they used a bowling pin shaped bottle for the range as it was new and fashionable though not without its problems.
“Bowling pins are designed to fall when knocked and then to tip over neighbouring pins,” said Duimpie, “and when running the bottling line with these bottles when one tipped it brought them all down. There was a lot of down time and staff were always having to be righting fallen bottles.”
The labels were pink because it was the favourite colour of SFW's chairman and pink was used to brand SFW, even to painting their delivery trucks what Duimpie called 'nipple pink'. The package was used until well into the seventies.
Second flight was from the Seventies.
Swartland Winery 1971
The wine was made at the Swartland Co-operative in Malmesbury but Gevul en Verouder (bottled and matured) by KWV in Paarl
Simonsig Estate 1978
Kanonkop Estate CWG 1994
A barrel selection bottling for the Cape Winemakers Guild auction.
Lavenir Estate CWG 1997
Deep red paleing at edge. Cherries on the nose, dense closed fruit at first opening out into ripe cherry flavours, lively acids and soft tannins, a very nicely balanced wine.
Kanonkop Estate 1999
Young purple colour, soft warm nose, generous rich sweet fruits of forest favours. It has a spicy almost Christmas cake richness.
Kaapzicht Estate ‘Steytler’ 2001
Simonsig ‘Redhill’ 2003
Beyerskloof ‘Diesel’ 2006