30 December 2009

Fairview Launch La Capra range

I was reminded of the Beatles tune ‘Being for the Benefit of Mr Kite’ when I opened La Capra 2008 Pinotage. The fab four’s song had been inspired by a circus poster, as surely is La Capra.

The ranges’ back labels promising that “each glass will transport you to a magical place where the wine flows freely, laughter fills the air and you dance until the sunrise” recall Victorian fairground posters.

La Capra seems a strange name for a new wine brand until you learn that it’s a Latin reference to goats and then you understand. For behind La Capra stands someone who George Taber in his recent book ‘In Search of Bacchus’ calls “a man who never heard a pun about goats he didn’t like”.

Yup, it’s Charles Back; chief goat herder, cheese maker extraordinaire, wine maker, tracker down of old blocks of rare grape varieties and consummate marketer whose brands include Fairview, Goats du Roam, Spice Route and who has interests in MAN Vintners, Juno and more.

Da Capra labels’ claim that ‘Fairview presents AMAZING tastes, sounds and sights of the La Capra Festival’ will come true, says Anita Streicher, manager at Fairview Winery’s master tasting room. She tells me that Fairview will be hosting an annual live La Capra fair with stalls, jugglers, fire eaters and other circus and fairground entertainments, and no doubt plentiful wines and goats’ cheese to accompany them.

La Capra is meant to be an easy drinking, non-serious, fun wine range. Individual pricing is not yet announced but for an indication currently any six wines from the nine strong range are available at Fairview for 200 rands (£16.50/$33). The La Capra range includes a Malbec, still an uncommon variety in the Cape and the wine which Anita recommends, as well as Sauvignon and Chenin Blanc, Chardonnay, Viognier, Merlot, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon.

So what of La Capra Pinotage 2008? It is said to be ‘as brooding and complex as a troubadour’, but I am not up to date on the psychology of travelling balladeers. I found it to be a clean, modern, fruity wine for drinking, which is what I did with it. It went down quickly and enjoyably -- but it didn’t sing to me.

29 December 2009

In the Press - Spier Pinotage 2006

The Private Collection Pinotage 2006 (rsp: £15.99) is pleasantly delicate and elegant for the variety, with a lovely nose of raspberries and redcurrants and almost like a Kiwi Pinot Noir in the mouth. Clare Hu in Harpers (UK trade magazine)

Harpers reports that Spier are "pulling out of supermarkets in favour of a push in the on-trade and independent merchants", but they do not mention whether this affects the many own-label wines Spier produce for UK supermarkets, for instance the ASDA Pinotage 'wine of year' praised by Tim Atkin, see here.


28 December 2009

Pink Kadette for Kanonkop

Kanonkop Estate’s popular red blend Kadette will soon have a pink partner. The rosé Kadette will be made from Pinotage.

For some years Kanonkop has concentrated on just four wines; as well as Kadette there is varietal Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinotage and the Paul Sauer Bordeaux blend.

“You can’t stand still,” owner Johann Krige told me, “you must keep innovating.” Currently in barrel is a premium Pinotage which the estate will release in 2010 through negocients. “We won’t even sell it at the winery,” said Johan. “It will be a very special wine at a price to match.”


16 December 2009

Wine Society Plants Pinotage

For some years The Wine Society, the world’s oldest wine society, has sourced their own label Pinotage from organic wine farm Bon Cap in the Eilanda valley near Robertson.

In order to meet growing demand and showing their faith in the variety they have contracted Bon Cap to plant a Pinotage vineyard exclusively for their own wines.

The Wine Society is a UK based non-profit making mutual society owned by its members which operates primarily via mail order and the internet.

15 December 2009

Pinotage Association Saves Trophy

The International Wine & Spirit Competition’s Trophy for Pinotage has been saved by the swift intervention of the Pinotage Association when KWV withdrew their 13 years sponsorship at short notice.

The Pinotage Association, with the backing of their sponsors ABSA, immediately stepped in to ensure that Pinotage continues as a Trophy category.

The Trophy has been renamed the Abraham Perold Trophy for Best Pinotage to give recognition to the father of Pinotage, Abraham Perold. KWV, who hold the rights to the Abraham Perold brand name, graciously consented to the re-naming of the Trophy. “We believe that this will enable a more collective drive in honouring the legacy of both Pinotage and Perold internationally”, said KWV CEO, Thys Loubser.

The IWSC is one of the world’s biggest and most authoritative wine competitions and South Africa’s own grape variety, Pinotage, was introduced as a category in this competition in 1995.

Frances Horder, IWSC Competition Director, said “with the sponsorship of this trophy now coming from South Africa’s Pinotage Association and their sponsor, Absa, it will for many years be an established and prestigious part of the Wine and Spirit Competition.”

This year the 2009 Abraham Perold Trophy was awarded to Rijk’s Private Cellar for their Pinotage Reserve 2006.

Photograph shows Dave Hughes, South African’s international wine expert and honorary member of the Pinotage Association (left) holding the new Trophy with Sir Ian Good, 2009 President of the IWSC. Photo courtesy of the Pinotage Association

12 December 2009

In the Blogs - Ch Leoville-Barton & Rhone?

Nicolas Pierron, Head Sommelier at Hong Kong's Island Shangri-La hotel selects De Waals'Top of the Hill Pinotage for his wine of the week at winebuzz.hk

He says "At Restaurant Petrus I usually use this wine in a blind tasting and most of the guests think that it originates from the Rhone Valley."

While Brian Freedman - WineChateau.com's resident blogger at UnCorkLife.com finds Wildekrans' 2006 Pinotage reminded him "in a lot of ways, of some sort of cousin to a Leoville-Barton, though it never lost its own identity. Just gorgeous."

As he says "Unfortunately, too many people still aren’t familiar enough with Pinotage. But it’s a grape worth exploring. You never know when you’ll find a standout...or two."


08 December 2009

Spiers ASDA Pinotage 'wine of year'

Tim Atkins, writing in The Guardian (London) rates an own label Pinotage made for supermarket chain ASDA by Spier winery as one of the two best wines of the year priced under £5.

2009 Asda South African Pinotage, Spier (£3.78, 14%) Shows Pinotage's better side: gluggable raspberry fruit and a hint of liquorice.

In his round up of 2009 he awards South Africa as the Wine Producing Country of the Year.

Congrats to Spier.

01 December 2009

Beyers Truter launches FAITH Cape Blend

Beyers Truter shares FAITH with diners in his restaurantThere is no doubt Beyers Truter is the King of Pinotage, but he is also a master of Bordeaux varieties, gaining much kudos for them when at Kanonkop and subsequently for his Beyerskloof ‘field blend’ of Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.

So when he melds Pinotage, Cabernet and Merlot together you know you’re going to get something special as his Synergy Cape Blends have shown.

But now comes Faith, a blend of 30% each of Cab and Merlot with 20% each of Pinotage and Shiraz. You’ll have already noted the FAITH logo on the back labels of Beyerskloof wines. FAITH is a charity set up by Truter to aid those affected by Foetal Alcohol syndrome.

The new Faith blend will directly help the charity. But it also denotes Truter’s faith in the terroir of his vineyards which is not only reflected in the wine but gravel from those vineyards is incorporated in the raised surface of the word Faith on the front label. (pictured below)

And what of the wine inside? It has just been bottled but is surprisingly approachable for a wine meant to be aged. It has an incredible red purple colour with a sweet lavender nose and it is soft on the palate; very soft and sweet. I thought it was a tremendous wine.

Only ten barrels were made and it is expected to sell at around 750R a bottle. Expensive yes, but every purchase helps the FAITH charity.

Beyers Truter is pictured above pouring tastes of Faith to diners in his restaurant.

30 November 2009

Recent Wines

The following were enjoyed with dinner in the past week.

Remhoogte 2008
WO Stellenbosch

Subdued blackberry nose and sweet blueberry flavours. An elegant refined wine with a spicy flourish at the end.

Du Toitskloof 2007
WO Western Cape

A little coffee on the nose. Lively welcoming wine. Berry fruits just jump out of glass. There’s coffee and black-forest gateau on the palate. A really enjoyable wine.

Fairview 2007
WO Coastal
Ripe rich berries with vanilla and coffee on the finish, a lovely full bodied wine.

Cardouw 2002
WO Western Cape
Showing signs of age, fruit tasting stewed and fading in the glass. 2002 wasn’t the greatest vintage and if you have any of this wine I’d suggest drink it now.

Welbedacht 2006
WO Wellington
Full bodied, big wine. Galumphing backberry fruits, some grip, great drinking!


28 November 2009

Backsberg Pinotage 2007

To Backsberg near Paarl for their spit-roasted lamb with crunchy potatoes accompanied by some very welcome fresh vegetables; simply steamed broccoli, cauliflower and carrots.

Although it is delightfully warm it is too windy to dine outside under the trees so we go indoors where we are well looked after by friendly Luciano Blouws.

Their wine list suggested that Pinotage makes a good lamb pairing and I needed no encouragement. The 2007 has a dense ruby colour and forthright smoky nose. Oodles of blackberry fruit flavours assail the palate, followed by a sweetness with some medium firm tannins. Lovely drinking now –especially with lamb – and I’d be interested in seeing this with a few more years bottle age as I think it will develop very attractively.
See also this previous post about Backsberg's spit roast lamb here

27 November 2009

Rijk’s Pinotage is Best SA Red

Congratulations to Rijks Private Cellar in Tulbagh in winning ‘Best South African Red’ for their Rijk’s Pinotage Reserve 2006 at the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong International Wine & Spirit Competition.

The competition's four-day judging session, featuring an Asian judging panel (pictured), was held in the first week of November. With around 1300 entries the Cathay Pacific Hong Kong IWSC claims to be the largest pan-Asian wine competition.
Picture: Judging panel at work

26 November 2009

Isabelo Pinotage Sweeps the Board

Congratulations to all involved in Isabelo Pinotage which swept the board at the annual Fairtrade Wine Competition, announced at Vinopolis in London on 19 November.

The same wine also won the Trophy for Best Overall Fairtrade Red Wine and the Certificate for Best Fairtrade South African Red, thus sweeping the board in every available category.

82 wines from Argentina, Chile and South Africa entered this year, compared to 61 last year, a 34% increase.

The judging panel, chaired by Louise Vaux of the Wine & Spirit Trust, was: Sarah Jane Evans MW, Tim Atkin MW, Patricia Langton, Susan McCraith MW, Jo Ahearne MW, (M&S), Michelle Smith, (Sainsbury’s), Becca Reeves, (formerly of Asda, now Direct wines), Graham Nash, (Tesco), Jaspar Corbett (Alan Titchmarsh daytime TV Show).

Congratulations to all involved.


25 November 2009

Vin de Francois Charity Auction

There's just a week left to run for the on-line auction for the second vintage of François Naudé’s ‘Le Vin de François’.

François’ reputation as a master of Pinotage was earned while working at L’Avenir Estate where he won ABSA Pinotage Top 10 seven times. After retiring from L’Avenir he was besieged with requests for his knowledge and now he offers consultation services to a number of top wineries. And, with Pinotage in his blood, François couldn’t resist making wine for himself. Part of his consultancy fee includes the option of a barrel of Pinotage and he chooses ones best suited to make his dream blend which he named ‘Vin de François’.

The label was designed by well known designer Haumann Smal features a wing-nut design symbolizing the clasping together of family ideals, with the different wines from a variety of terroirs. But it also is a tongue-in-mouth reference to François distinctive ears.

But you can’t pop down to supermarket to buy this wine. Interested parties are invited to an auction. They are taken to a secret venue – this year it was Croydon Olive Estate Lifestyle Centre which ‘was transformed into a 1930’s Speakeasy Club with entertainment and food by celebrity chefs.

This year 36 people made successful bids, paying in total R720,000 for 200 cases of twelve bottles.

Only 2600 bottles of the 2008 vintage were produced, and 3 cases (36 bottles) are being offered to the general public via an online auction at http://www.levindefrancois.com/, with all proceeds being donated to the FAITH Foundation which fight against Foetal Alcohol Syndrome.

I tasted this wine last week with François (pictured) who says that the 2008 vintage “was excellent from a point of view of elegance and balance.” The wine had been in bottle for just a month and had an excellent deep colour with restrained fruit and tannins and the sense of locked up potential.

If you are in the Cape you may be interested in bottles of 2007 vintage which I noted on sale at 400R in Delheim winery’s tasting cellar.

Visit http://www.levindefrancois.com/ for more information and to bid.

Riebeek’s Pasta Pairing Perfection

With only two Pinotages on the restaurant wine list I plumped for Riebeek Cellars 2007.

Gosh, what a pleasure it is. It is unwooded and comes in a screwcap closed bottle so it was clean and fresh tasting and the waiter didn’t have to wave it around while struggling with a corkscrew.

What bowled me over was the amount of smooth rounded fruit flavours they’d packed into it for the price. Just great drinking without having to think too much, but with some spicy herby flavours it’s a bit more than just a fruit bomb. This is the wine to buy a case of to have ready any time you want to just grab a bottle and quickly crack that cap.

And it made a great pairing for my pasta dish.


24 November 2009

Bergkelder Release Mature Pinotages

Celebrating their 25th anniversary the Bergkelder Vinoteque is releasing 25 mature wines including four Pinotages. The price includes delivery in South Africa.

Jacobsdal Pinotage 2000 12x750ml R 877.00
Stellenzicht Pinotage Golden Triangle 2003 12x750ml R 895.00
Tukulu Pinotage 2002 6x750ml R 554.00
Zonnebloem Pinotage (in Wooden box ) 2004 12x750ml R 576.00

For details and order form go to www.vinoteque.co.za

23 November 2009

Somerbosch Winery Bistro

Somerbosch is on the R44 close to Somerset West and although I have driven past it many times I have not stopped. But I heard that they do a good lunch there so one dismal day we tried it.

Their bistro is in a flagstone floored old barn. A dozen or so tables are set out, there’s an open fire in a huge fireplace with sofas set in front and a most charming and helpful waitress. Also, rather disconcertingly, a small open office at the entrance where someone is continually clacking away on a keyboard.

What to choose? We plump for the alliterative Kudu Kebabs which come with a goodly portion of roasted veggies, a mound of tiny new potatoes and the most scrumptious black sauce made from mulberries. A neighbouring table have roast duck which they highly recommend and tell us is the reason they keep returning.

A bottle of Somerbosch 2007 Pinotage at 55R (£4.60/$9.20) is a good match. It offers bright red cherry fruit flavours and is soft and generous.

I couldn’t resist Pinotage ice-cream which comes with that delightful Pinotage purple colour but its texture is disappointingly chewy and cloying.

We leave with another bottle of Pinotage (47R retail) and a Shiraz which is on sale at a bargain 25R (£2/$4) (and is almost as nice as the Pinotage) and a determination to return to try the duck next time.


22 November 2009

P & O’s Pinotage Picks

Michael Olivier and Neil Pendock (P & O) recommended 45 Pinotages in their new People’s Guide 2010. (see review posted yesterday). Four of them are singled out to receive Coup de Coeur (blow to the heart) awards. They are

Zonnebloem 2007 (under 50R) which is described as “Elegance and excitement, big yummy, coconut there too. Delicious aftertaste.” Neil adds that “there was cooing around the room when we tasted this wine.”

Beaumont 2006 (50-100R) – “Bright fresh, sweet cherry nose. Plums and vanilla – finishes dry.

Bellevue Morkel 2007 (50-100R) – “Smoky coffee. Big chewy fruit and toasty vanilla with a long and lingering finish.”

Clos Malverne Reserve 2007 (Over 100R) – “Chocolate mint crunch. Sweet chocolate, some banana and plums.”

The omissions are intriguing. No Kanonkop, Ashbourne, L’Avenir Grand Vin, or DeWaal Top of the Hill. Beyerskloof Reserve is included, but not its cheaper standard bottling, although in the book Michael calls that “one of the great wines of South Africa.” Two coffee’n’chocolate Pinotages are there – Diemersfontein and Café Culture – accompanied by swipes at the ABSA Top 10 competition for ignoring them, but Bertus Fourie’s Barista and Boland’s Cappuccino are left out. Stellenzichts second label Hill & Dale makes it but not Stellenzicht’s multi-award winning Golden Triangle.

I have just got to get that Zonnebloem to see if it makes me coo.


21 November 2009

The People's Guide 2010 -- Book Review

Columnist and fearlessly outspoken chronicler of the wine industry Neil Pendock has become increasingly critical of the popular annual Platter Guide for its policy of tasting wines ‘sighted’, in other words reviewers see the label of the wine they taste. Pendock’s feud with Platter is so deep that he cannot now mention its name without using the prefix ‘sighted’.

“It was time I had to put up or shut up,” he told me, handing over a hot-off-the-press copy of his new ‘People’s Guide 2010’. For this review Pendock together with Michael Olivier and a small team tasted 1200 wines unsighted over six days and selected 561 recommendations. The book’s cover claims ‘blind-tasted wines are honest wines.’

The paperback book is most attractively designed and printed in full colour with a photograph of every bottle, and stripes with coloured backgrounds giving an initial tasting note with additional comments from one or more of the judges complete with a ‘Did You Know’ odd fact and technical details of appellation, alcohol and sugar levels.

Wines that particularly impressed the judges are awarded a Coup de Coeur (blow to the heart) and given an entire page to themselves.

Wines are not rated; they are described “using plain language rather than scores out of 20 or 100 or awarding stars. After all, it’s about writing, not arithmetic and best is a matter of personal opinion.”

So inclusion in the book is the recommendation – and almost 50% of the wines tasted were. 76 wines were awarded a Coup de Coeur, (That is around 6% compared with 42 (0.5%) Five Star wines out of 8000 rated in Platter.

So how does the People’s Guide compare with Platter? Platter attempts to rate every South African wine giving a necessarily cryptic tasting note and a rating from zero to 5 stars.

The Peoples Guide uses ‘plain language rather than scores’ and yet the tasting notes are brief in the extreme. Whereas Platter is limited by space, even when a full page is dedicated to a Coup de Coeur wine its description can be as short as six words, for instance Two Oceans Pinot Noir 2007 is summed up as “Wham. Intense sour cherries, smooth fresh.”

However this is a different guide. There are also exuberant food matching comments from ex-restaurateur Michael Olivier which range from “a pasta-sorta wine” (De Grendel 2006 Merlot) to “would go with Karoo Muisies, little liver cakes wrapped in caul fat and cooked over coals” (Long Mountain Reserve Pinotage 2007). Other tasters add in their comments from succinct to wordy plus those intriguing ‘did you know’ quirky facts.

There are signs of a rush to get to print with several typos and one entry being repeated in its entirety, and I wondered whether “Pinotage nose with plums and berries” was an accurate descriptor for a Sauvignon Blanc.

But minor quibbles aside, this is a good looking, readable and interesting book which doesn’t claim to be comprehensive but if you choose your wine from its recommendations you won’t be disappointed.

Here’s hoping Pendock & Olivier can keep it going for the next 30 years!

The People’s Guide 2010:
navigate the winelands in a shopping trolley
by Michael Olivier & Neil Pendock with Anibal Coutinho
99 Rand
304 pages including advertisements.
Published by Whisk Publications
ISBN 978-0-620-44882-6

20 November 2009

Five Decades of Pinotage

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

Abrie Beeslaar pours Lanzerac 1963 for Beyers Truter and DeWet Viljoen shares a joke with Fiona McDonald while pouring the Lanzerac 1969

Lanzerac 1963

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.

Lanzerac 1969

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

Golden red colour with lots of fine gritty sediment.
Sweet berry nose
Sweet berry fruit on palate, good body and a spicy long finish with some acids coming through at the end.
Very drinkable and enjoyable wine with long long aftertaste, though food is needed to alleviate acids at very end.

The wine was made at the Swartland Co-operative in Malmesbury but Gevul en Verouder (bottled and matured) by KWV in Paarl

Zonnebloem 1974

Premium brand for SFW, the grapes coming from Kanonkop and Bellevue.
Attractive red-gold colour, but acrid and acidic at first taste. There are some fruit and herb notes there, but too acidic and sour for me to enjoy.

Meerendal 1976

Meerendal was one of the pioneering Pinotage vineyards and I was looking forward to this wine which had a dark dense black red colour. However a stinky VA (volatile acidity) nose and an unpleasant sour taste showed this wine was spoilt and not drinkable

Stellenryk 1976

Pale, pinking at rim. An aged smell of sweet soft toffee. Restrained, not getting much flavour, some noticeable alcohol and stone developing at end.

Simonsig Estate 1978

Pale browning red colour with a shy, porty nose. Perky up-front fruit acids with caramel and a dusty wood tannin finish. A restrained wine whose fruit had declined.
Some tasters thought they detected Cabernet Sauvignon in this wine, but this was the only label which proclaimed it was "100% Pinotage", a statement that got Simonsig in trouble with the authorities at the time because of the implication that others were not. And indeed, the rules did not then, and still do not, require that a varietal contains nothing but the variety named on its label.

Zonnebloem 1984

Medium dark red, brown pink rim and a cheesy nose. Medium body with sweet thinning cherry and red plum fruits and a floral end that become attractively spicy on a very long finish.

Zonnebloem 1988

Red, brick rim, thin sweet nose, some grippy tannins and fresh fleshy fruits. Nice wine.

Kanonkop Estate CWG 1994

A barrel selection bottling for the Cape Winemakers Guild auction.
Purple dense opaque core, subdued nose, restrained and elegent.

Lavenir Estate CWG 1997

A barrel selection bottling for the Cape Winemakers Guild auction.

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.
I remember when this wine was first released thinking how soft and approachable it was, unusual in Kanonkop whose wines then needed some years in bottle to be approachable, and I though this was a slight wine that wouldn’t last and I didn’t buy any. I was so wrong. I’ve tasted this twice wine over the past couple of years and it is delicious.
Beyers recalled it had 18 months in 80% new oak, 20% second fill.

Kaapzicht Estate ‘Steytler’ 2001

Dense black with red rim that stains the glass, lively expressive fruits, spiciness and soft old leather, Delightful wine. 15%abv

Simonsig ‘Redhill’ 2003

Opaque purple black with sweet candy nose. Beautiful silky mouthfeel with flavours of black cherries and succulent plums. A rich opulent wine with dense fruit balanced by harmonious acids and tannins. This is a stunner, and my favourite drinking wine of the tasting, just ahead of the 1999 Kanonkop.

Beyerskloof ‘Diesel’ 2006

Bright cherry red colour. Tasting very young in the line-up, the “fruit and oak are still finding themselves” as Abrie Beeslaw, sitting next to me, put it. I think this wine suffers in comparison following the Simonsig and with some grippy tannins from its 21 months in new oak it is a work in progress needing more time.

16 November 2009

Lunch and Pinotage at Seidelberg Estate

Torrential rain of the past view days clears and so to Seidelberg Estate near Paarl for lunch. It’s too cool to sit outside but indoors there are open wood fires to take away the chill. And through the glass there is a terrific view over the valley.

Restaurant staff are friendly as is the menu with a range of traditional dishes each with an explanation of their construction and sometimes their history.

I plump for the Cape Malay chicken and yoghurt curry, my partner for the lamb curry (both 78R/£6.50/$13) and we share a starter of delicious delicate vegetable samosas (35R/£3/$6). The curries come in a bowl on a plate with a bowl of rice and a sambal of chopped tomato and cucumber. The waitron removes the very hot curry bowl with her bare hands and places it by the plate then the rice and raita so I can move spoonfuls of each onto the now empty plate as I wish.

Each dish has a recommended wine; Chardonnay is suggested for the chicken but I have a much better idea and order a glass of Pinotage.

The wine arrives cool, which is excellent as too many red wines are served too hot. On a hot day the wine would quickly warm up but today I cup it a little in my hands because the wine is not offering much at first.

This is not an ‘in-your-face’ wine, it’s serious and restrained with black cherry flavours at first then developing layers of complexity revealing seams of pepper and spices and some tannins. One glass is not enough and a second is ordered.

The curry comprises boneless chicken pieces in a thick red tomato based sauce with delicate spices but no chilli heat to speak of. The lamb curry also has potato chunks of which I am envious and I’d have liked some veggies in mine.

An excellent lunch and I call into the cellar burrowed into the valley side to buy a bottle of the Pinotage 2008 I have just drunk (30R/£2.50/$5 a glass, 95 R a bottle in the restaurant, 71R/£6/$12 a bottle ex-cellar) plus a bottle of the Roland’s Reserve 2007 Pinotage (123R/£10/$20 ex-cellar). Both wines are Estate Wine of Origin Paarl

14 November 2009

Beyerskloof in Telegraph'sTop 10

Number 3 in Jonathan Ray's list of South Africa's Top 10 wines for the Daily Telegraph is

2008 Beyerskloof Pinotage, 14%vol, South Africa (£5.99 if you buy 3, otherwise £8.99; Wine Rack)

Pinotage, a cross between cinsault and pinot noir, is South Africa's USP, loved for its fruit by some, dismissed as tired and redolent of burnt rubber by others. In the hands of Beyerskloof's Beyers Truter, one of the grape's most vociferous supporters, it works a dream. Here, his entry-level version is ripe, juicy and full of spicy plum fruit, with no hint of rubber. Enjoy with slow roast belly of pork.

read full list here


13 November 2009

Whales, Fish'n'Chips and .......

Hermanus is where the whales are and before spending some time viewing them from the rocks what is better than Rich Man’s Fish and Chips at the Marine Hotel?

But where is the Pinotage? I hear you ask. Top right, in the flute. We order, as usual, a bottle of Villiera Brut Tradition, a methode champenoise sparkler with an amazing amount of tiny bubbles that cease only on streaming up to explode on the surface when the glass is emptied. One of the components of this delightfully zesty toasty fizz is Pinotage.


12 November 2009

Stormhoek 2007

‘Made in Heaven’ it says the foot of this label. The Stormhoek brand now has two incarnations: rights to use the name in South Africa remain with Graham Knox who was one of its founders while abroad the brand name is owned by Origin Wines.

This is Knox’s Stormhoek. Jammy fruit is upfront, it is soft fat bodied with a tannic core. Ideal with a steak and for quaffing not pontificating about.

Stormhoek 2007
WO Western Cape
48 R (£5)

07 November 2009

Bertus Fourie on Barista Pinotage 09 (Video)

Michael Olivier talks to winemaker Bertus Fourie who invented the 'coffee Pinotage' category. Michael tastes his new 2009 Barista Pinotage.

Bertus describes the technique behind achieving this unique flavour profile, highlighting the fact that it can only be obtained with Pinotage.

Thanks to A Minute of Wine -- Your online home for films on South African Wine for sharing this clip with us.

(c) Copyright A Minute of Wine. Used with permission.

06 November 2009

False Bay Pinotage 2007

False Bay is an inexpensive export label made by Waterkloof at their impressive new winery perched on a high ridge overlooking False Bay.

The wine is light coloured bright red with high toned cherry flavours and a bite of acidity. WO Western Cape, 47 Rand (£3.90)from winery

04 November 2009

Is Coffee Pinotage really the best example of the variety?

Richard Hemming, tasting for Jancis Robinson's site seems to think so. He gave his highest score to Diemersfontein's coffee'n'chocolate Pinotage.

The original article is on the restricted part of Jancis's site but Grape magazine has been granted permission to reproduce it here.

Hemming tasted Pinotages at the recent South African Mega Tasting in London, however he doesn't appear to have tasted the 2009 Top 10 Winners from the Pinotage Association stand that I had the honour to staff.

They are considered to be the best Pinotages available and it no review of the variety can be considered comprehensive if missed when available.

03 November 2009

Southern Right Pinotage with owner Anthony Hamilton Russell (video)

Anthony Hamilton Russell is a passionate fan of Pinotage which he produces under two labels: Ashbourne and Southern Right. Here he talks about his belief in the variety, how it ages and how he is redefining Pinotage.

This is the last of a series of short videos taken at the Wines of South Africa Mega Tasting held in London in October.

02 November 2009

Bosman Family Vineyards Pinotage by winemaker Corlea Fourie (video)

Corlea Fourie is winemaker at Bosman Family Vineyards in Wellington. Here she talks about their new 2008 vintage Pinotage.

01 November 2009

Diemersfontein Pinotage by owner David Sonnenberg (video)

David Sonnenberg, owner of Diermersfontein winery in Wellington which pioneered the popular 'coffee'n'chocolate' style of Pinotage, talks about how the wine has changed as it approaches its tenth aniversary.


31 October 2009

Bon Cap Ruins Pinotage with owner Michelle du Preez (video)

Michelle du Preez, owner of Bon Cap Organic winery in Robertson, talks about her popular Ruins Pinotage.


30 October 2009

Diemersfontein 2009 Pinotage gains a fan....

Laurian Clemence blogs about the recent WineX show in Johannesburg:

Of course I pushed my way through the crowds at the Diemersfontein stall. ‘Step aside Junior, I’m going in.’ They served their latest Pinotage – the 2009 – not available on shelves yet – and I almost had a full on orgasm whilst taking the first sip.
They also served it with a Belgian chocolate. God they’re good.

Seems like she really liked it. Read the full entry here.

Beyerskloof Diesel Pinotage with winemaker Anrie Truter (video)

Anrie Truter tells us about Beyerskloof's new flagship Diesel Pinotage, the inspiration for its name and how he decided to make the best Pinotage in South Africa.

The bottle Anrie is holding is the 2007 vintage with the new label that was a 2009 Top 10 winner. The initial vintage 2006 was a 2008 Top 10 winner.


29 October 2009

Riebeek Cellars with winemaker Eric Saayman (video)

Riebeek Cellars winemaker Eric Saayman talks about the versatility of Pinotage which enables him to produce three different styles of the cultivar


28 October 2009

Moreson 2008 Pinotage by winemaker Clayton Reabow (video)

Clayton Reabow, winemaker at Môreson winery in Franschhoek, discusses the 2008 vintage which disappointed. Here he explains how he tweaked his 2008 Pinotage and how it is now developing.


27 October 2009

Swallow's Tail Pinotage - by Harriet Tindal (video)

Harriet Tindal of Tindal Wine Merchants in Ballina, County Mayo, Ireland talks about her new Swallow's Tail Riserva 2008 Pinotage and the inspiration behind its excellent label.

The wine is priced at €8.15 a bottle and is made by the Tindal family in conjunction with and by Major's Hill in Robertson. Tindal Wines also carries the Major's Hill range of wines.

25 October 2009

Three Cape Ladies Cape Blend -- by Mike Ratcliffe (video)

I met Mike Ratcliffe of Warwick Estate at the South Africa Mega Tasting this month and asked him to tell me about his Three Cape Ladies Cape Blend.


10 October 2009

Pinotage triumphs at WineX

The public overwhelmingly voted for 'coffee and choc 'Pinotages at last months three day wine show, WineX, held in Cape Town.

Visitors are given a voting form on which to record the best wine of the show. This year the three top red wines were Diemersfontein Pinotage 2008, KWV Café Culture 2009 and Barista Coffee Pinotage 2009, and the Diemersfontein Pinotage was the most ordered wine at the show.

South African wine columnist Neil Pendock contrasted the popularity of this style of Pinotage with its lack of success in the Pinotage Top 10 competition winners and its lack of stars in the Platter Guide, which Pendock bizarrely blames on Platter tasting wines sighted although this style of Pinotage is unmistakeable when tasted blind.

As Christo Volschenk commenting on WineGoggle said "It’s the only industry I can think of where you are praised when you reproduce yesterday’s tastes (products) perfectly and ridiculed when you produce (apparently quite legally) new tastes (products)."

Interesting that Barista came last since that was the one made by Bertus Fourie who invented this style while at Diemersfontein and later created KWV’s version. Have his students surpassed the master, or is it that more people tasted the well known brands than the newly released Barista?

WineX will be held in Johannesburg 27 - 30 October 2009. Will Pinotage triumph again?


28 September 2009

Oregon Joins the Club

Oregon has joined the family of Pinotage growers. Melrose Vineyards, located in the delightfully named Umpqua Valley, near the town of Roseburg in southern Oregon, planted Pinotage in 2004 on the banks on the South Umpqua River and currently they have one acre of Pinotage.

Melrose is owned by Wayne and Deedy Parker who started their vineyards in 1996. The Parker family decided to plant Pinotage for “the unique wine experience and for the challenge of growing a grape unknown in the Umpqua Valley.” Wayne Parker says “the vines are doing exceptionally well.”

Rachael Miller at Melrose says “customers are intrigued by the delightfully fragrant nose that almost seems to contradict the unusually rich berry flavours.” She adds that “Pinotage makes a great reduction for pork tenderloin and is very flexible when pairing with food.”

Melrose released their first varietal Pinotage, from the 2006 vintage, last November and so far it has won a bronze medal at the 2009 San Francisco Chronicle Wine Competition and a silver medal at the 2009 Oregon Seafood & Wine Festival.

Oregon joins fellow US states California and Virginia in growing and making commercially available varietal Pinotage along with Montana, New York and North Carolina which are growing Pinotage.


24 September 2009

Just Fancy That

From the Arniston Bay Blog, posted 21 September

A roast rack of Karoo lamb is just the right dish to prepare on Heritage Day.
This dish maybe time consuming to prepare but the result is an amazingly delicious dish which is well worth the effort.
To keep within the heritage theme, serve this meal with a uniquely South African Pinotage. The Arniston Bay Pinotage 2008 is a well balanced wine with vanilla tones and savoury flavours. This wine is a great match for the South African Karoo lamb.

From the Kumkani blog, posted 21 September

A roast rack of Karoo lamb is just the right dish to prepare on Heritage Day.
This dish maybe time consuming to prepare but the result is an amazingly delicious dish which is well worth the effort.
To keep within the heritage theme, serve this meal with a uniquely South African Pinotage. The Kumkani Pinotage 2006. This well balanced wine has a ripe berry fruit nose and French oak aromas adding vanilla and spice with a excellent finish.

Both blogs posted Sally Schneider's December 1969 recipe copied from a US site and although temperatures have been converted to Celcius from Fahrenheit the lamb pictured is not Karoo but "American lamb, because it is corn fed, is milder in flavor than Australian or New Zealand lamb, which is grass fed."

How come both Kumkani and Arniston Bay blogs happened to post the same thing on the same day? Seems that the brands have outsourced production of their blogs to the same PR Agency, Bivio Consulting.

Bivio Consulting also run the blogs of several other wine brands including Boschendal , Four Cousins ,Tall Horse and Versus . Content is mostly cut and paste items from other websites with minimal original content or news about the winery, it staff or its products.

No doubt Bivio managed to impress the wineries with the importance to a business of blogging, however Bivio themselves are not leading by example. Bivio's very own blog, hosted by the free Blogger service, has had only 3 items posted this year, the last one on 10 April declared "Our site is currently under construction".

I think these wineries are missing the point. Surely a blog is a way to communicate with their customers and to let us who cannot visit the winery to know what is going on throughout the seasons. It isn't rocket science and it needn't cost money. I can imagine the winery MD smugly boasting that 'Oh, yes, we have a blog' but I don't think that paying a PR agency to post content culled from the web that has no connection with the wine brand that owns the blog makes sense.


21 September 2009

Succesful Erections at Neethlinghof

Neethlingshof have now formally announced the renaming of their Lord Neethling Pinotage to Owl Post, as revealed here in May.

They say that the redesign emphasises elegance and rejuvenation. “The new-look labels, adopted across the range, have also created an opportunity to highlight the winery’s commitment to eco-sustainability, having recently become a member of the Biodiversity & Wine Initiative (BWI).”.

“the reserve tier, made exclusively from hand-picked grapes, has been named The Short Story Collection. Drawing attention to Neethlingshof’s rich and varied narratives, the three-limited edition wines in the collection each focus on a specific aspect of the estate’s philosophy or history.”

They include the Owl Post, a single-vineyard Pinotage.

“The Owl Post recognises Neethlinghof’s integrated pest management system. Owls play an important role in keeping rodent infestations in check (and without the use of chemicals). To encourage the return of these nocturnal birds of prey to the estate, Neethlingshof successfully erected breeding-friendly owl posts in the vineyards.”

No mention how many posts were “successfully erected” or whether any owls have moved into the new accommodation.

12 September 2009

Flat Roof Manor add Pink Pinotage to Portfolio

Flat Roof Manor have added a pink wine to their list. It’s called Pinot Rosé and is a 70-30 blend of Pinotage and Pinot Grigio.

No reason given for the inclusion of the Grigio but I guess it adds to the flavour profile and the fashionable Grigio name will help sales. Or is it they just didn’t have enough Grigio to make enough pink wine on its own?

The wine is made at Uitkyk winery by Estelle Lourens. On the property is an historic manor house which is one of only three 19th century Georgian flat roofed manors still standing in the Cape.

The brand’s label shows the flat roof with a cheeky cat that legend says preferred to stay on the roof long after its owners left the estate.

(Pinot Grigio – Pinot Gris in French – is a mutation of Pinot Noir whose skins vary in colour from grey to a dark pink. Usually used to make white wines, the recent international popularity of rosé wines coupled with the current popularity of Grigio have seen increasing numbers of pink Grigio’s.)

11 September 2009

On the Couch with Guy Webber

Pinotage loving winemaker Guy Webber has ventured into the world of blogging.

On the Couch with Guy Webber started on 20 July and now has three posts.

Guy is winemaker for Stellenzicht and Hill and Dale and it is on the latter’s site he is musing – mostly about women it seems.

Head over there and say hello.

(I don't think that is Guy sitting on that sofa)

07 September 2009

Pinotage News Snippets


  • Kanonkop 2005 Pinotage won the only Gold medal awarded to varietal Pinotage in the 2009 Decanter World Wine Awards. Judges described it as “Violets, red fruit, subtle spice, a bit of oyster shell. Fresh and appealing palate, with lovely concentrated strawberry fruit and some pencil shavings, tomato paste and truffle. Balanced elegant tannin”. Beyerskloof Synergy 2005 Cape Blend (with 33% Pinotage) won a Gold medal. (As previously reported, a varietal Pinotage from Kaapzicht won the International Trophy for Red Single Varietal over £10 and Kaapzicht’s Vision Cape Blend won a Gold medal at the same competition.

  • Wine Spectator gave 92 points to J Vineyards 2007 Russian River Valley (California) Pinotage.

  • The successful Golden Kaan brand is now 100% owned by KWV after they bought out founding partners Racke.

  • Café Culture Pinotage 2009 is about to be released. Richard Rowe, chief winemaker at KWV, says "The 2009 Café Culture Pinotage is one of the best Café Culture wines we have produced; in fact the cooler season and absence of any heat wave conditions resulted in ideal growing conditions for the grapes. Consequently the taste experience is richer and softer, and we have been able to release the wine a few months earlier than normal - a bonus for Café Culture fans."

    Rowe recommends cooling it before serving. “The 2009 has intense, fresh coffee and mocha flavours, which are more pronounced than other years. This is a stylish wine which can be enjoyed for all occasions," says Rowe. "I recommend chilling it slightly in summer as South Africa's room temperature can get fairly high. This will ensure that your Café Culture tastes just as delicious when sipped around the pool."

  • Another coffee accented Pinotage has been launched: Cappucino by Boland Cellars

  • Pinotage is being made in Oregon. Melrose Melrose Vineyards in Roseburg Oregon released their first vintage of 100% Pinotage last year and it a won Silver medal at the Oregon Seafood & Wine Festival 2009. Unfortunately I have not received a reply to my request for information.

  • “Like a lot of people, I started out with Yellowtail; however, I have moved on to other wines now. My regular drink now is a wine from South Africa called The Ruins Pinotage.” Dr Kelly Fletcher of the University Hospital of the West Indies Department of Anaesthesia, interviewed by Christopher Reckord in the Jamaica Observer 3 September

05 September 2009

Pinotage Scoops Best Red Varietal Trophy

Kaapzicht Estate’s Steytler Pinotage 2006 has won the International Trophy for Red Single Varietal over £10 at the 2009 Decanter World Wine Awards, it was announced this week.

The same wine had earlier won the Trophy for South African Red Single Varietal over £10 Trophy – watch Yngvild Steytlers reaction to that award here – and their Kaapzicht Steytler Vision 2006, a Cape Blend containing 35% Pinotage, won a Gold medal in the same competition.

Five years ago, at the 2004 International Wine and Spirits Competition in London, the 2001 vintage Vision won the Trophy for world’s best red blend, the first Cape blend to so recognised.

The fruit for the winning Pinotage and Cape Blends came from the same block of old bush vines. Danie Steytler, cellarmaster and co-owner of Kaapzicht Estate said “Bottelary Hills is a prime winegrowing terroir for red wine. The northwestern slopes have the perfect combination of direct sunlight and cool prevailing sea breezes from False Bay and Atlantic Ocean. The hills on our estate are situated only 20 km from the coast of False Bay. The medium potential soils and dry land vineyards produce low yields of 4 to 8 tons per hectare, thus creating small berries with concentrated flavours.

“Pinotage is a very versatile red wine variety and the Kaapzicht Steytler Pinotage from those vineyards is a shining example of the serious, well-oaked, full-bodied style to be enjoyed with food, especially venison, red meat, traditional South African dishes and cheeses.”

From left Danie jr Steytler (winemaker), George Steytler (owner and viticulturist) and Danie Steytler (owner and cellarmaster)

Decanter’s judges described the winning Pinotage as “Voluptuous, heady nose with very precise black fruits, plums, mocha and tar. Full-bodied and opulent in the mouth, ripe and supple fine-grained tannins with plenty of spice to enliven the finish.”

The Gold winning Vision 2006 had “Abundant blackberry fruit with pencil shaving, white pepper, cocoa and spiced oak aromas. Multi-layered ripe fruit, sleek tannins and linear progression from aroma to palate.”

Decanter World Wine Awards claim to be the world's biggest wine competition; this year there were 10,285 entries.

Congratulations to the Steytlers and the Kaapzicht team.

27 August 2009

2009 Pinotage Top 10 Winners

Winning Wines Announced Today

  • Altydgedacht 2008 (Durbanville)
  • Beyerskloof Diesel 2007 (Stellenbosch)
  • Cathedral Cellar 2006 (Coastal)
  • Darling Cellars Onyx 2006 (Darling)
  • Flagstone Writer’s Block 2007 (Worcester vineyards)
  • Kanonkop Estate 2005 (Stellenbosch)
  • Longridge 2007 (Stellenbosch)
  • Lyngrove Platinum 2007 (Stellenbosch)
  • Viljoensdrift River Grandeur 2008 (Robertson)
  • Windmeul Reserve 2008 (Paarl)

Results of the 2009 Absa Pinotage Top 10 Competition were announced today 27 August at a ceremony following lunch at Val de Vie Wine and Polo Estate near Paarl.

Half the wineries represented are first time winners: Altydgedacht, Darling Cellars, Flagstone, Lyngrove, and Viljoensdrift.

Kanonkop wins for their eighth time and Beyerskloof for their fifth with the second vintage of Diesel which has also been awarded 5 Stars in the 2010 Platter Guide.

This year there were 139 wines competing, the 2nd highest number of entries, and these included three wines from New Zealand, the second year running the competition has attracted international interest.

This year’s judges were Duimpie Bayly (convener), Francois Naudé, Allan Cheesman, Neil Pendock, Wendy Burridge, Chris Roux and Gert Boerssen who over two days drew up a short list of 28 wines from which were selected the winners and 10 runners-up.

Duimpie Bayly said that the wines showed elegance and beautiful fruit, while sensible wood treatment created a fine balance of flavours. “There were very few bad wines and the 2007 vintage stood out with wines of supreme quality.”

Co-judge Neil Pendock said it was a hard task to select the top 10 from the final 28 wines. Allan Cheesman, former Director of Wine for UK Sainsbury’s supermarkets said that he'd been tasting wine for 37 years and this was a great experience with all the superb wines.

Runners up were: Bellingham Bernard Series Bush Vine 2007,
Cathedral Cellar 2007, DeWaal Top of the Hill 2007, Diemersfontein Carpe Diem 2007, Fort Simon 2006, Kanonkop Estate 2006, Simonsig Redhill 2007, Spier Lesebo 2007, Stellenzicht Cellarmaster's Release 2007 and Wildekrans Barrel Selection 2007

The winners of the 2009 Absa Top 10 Pinotage Competition share with their award. Front from left are Anri Truter (Beyerskloof), Francois van Niekerk (Windmeul), James Slabbert (Managing Executive of Absa Corporate and Business Bank), Fred Viljoen (Viljoensdrift) and Danielle le Roux (Lyngrove). Behind from left are Abé Beukes (Darling Cellars/Onyx), Clinton Le Sueur (Longridge), Abrie Beeslaar (Kanonkop), Etienne Louw (Altydgedacht), Gerhard Swart (Flagstone) and Thys Loubser (KWV/Cathedral Cellar).

Photographer: Hannes Oosthuizen

26 August 2009

5 Platter Stars for Beyerskloof's Diesel

Earlier than usual the Platter team have announced the wines awarded five stars in the forthcoming 2010 Platter Guide, due for publication end of November.

Beyerskloof's Diesel Pinotage 2007 is the sole varietal representative in the list.

The Platter Guide annually tastes and rates more than 6,000 South African awarding from zero to a maximum of 5 stars. Very few wines achieve the highest score which indicates a wine the tasters agreed was 'superlative, a Cape classic'.

For the 2010 Guide there just 43 five-star wines, which includes 7 fortified and dessert wines.

Congratulations to Beyers Truter (pictured right) and his team at Beyerskloof. The first vintage of this barrel selection wine, named after Beyers' recently deceased and much missed dog, the 2006 vintage was a Pinotage Top 10 winner last year.

The full list of five star wines:
White Wine of the Year
Sadie Family Palladius 2008
Red Wine of the Year
Le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2005
Sauvignon blanc
Fleur du Cap Sauvignon Blanc Unfiltered 2009
Lomond Pincushion Sauvignon Blanc 2009
Tokara Elgin Sauvignon Blanc 2008
Woolworths Cape Point Vineyards Sauvignon Blanc Limited Release 2009
Cape Point Vineyards CWG Auction Reserve Barrel Fermented Sauvignon Blanc 2008
White blends - Bordeaux style
Woolworths Steenberg Sauvignon Blanc-Semillon Reserve 2009
Cape Point Vineyards Isliedh 2008
The Berrio Wines The Weathergirl 2008
Vergelegen White 2008
Chenin blanc
Beaumont Hope Marguerite Chenin Blanc 2008
White blends
Nederburg Ingenuity White 2008
Rall 2008
Sadie Family Palladius 2008
Woolworths Tulbagh Mountain Vineyards Spectrum White Limited Release 2008
Ataraxia Chardonnay 2008
Chamonix Chardonnay Reserve 2008
Paul Cluver Chardonnay 2008
Pinot noir
Newton Johnson Domaine Pinot Noir 2008
Catherine Marshall Pinot Noir 2008
Neil Ellis Vineyard Selection Grenache 2007
Beyerskloof Diesel Pinotage 2007
Red blends
Sadie Family Columella 2007
Spier Frans K. Smit 2005
Dunstone Shiraz 2008
Haskell Vineyards Pillars Shiraz 2007
Rustenberg Stellenbosch Syrah 2007
Saxenburg Shiraz Select Limited Release 2005
Red blends - Bordeaux style
De Trafford CWG Auction Reserve Perspective 2006
Kanonkop Paul Sauer 2006
Morgenster Estate Morgenster 2006
Stony Brook Ghost Gum 2006
Woolworths Jordan Cobblers Hill Classic 2005
Cabernet Sauvignon
Boekenhoutskloof Cabernet Sauvignon 2007
Le Riche Cabernet Sauvignon Reserve 2005
Boplaas Vintage Reserve Port 2007
De Krans Cape Tawny Port NV
Boplaas Family Vineyards Cape Tawny Port 1997
Unfortified dessert wine
Buitenverwachting 1769 2007
Fleur du Cap Noble Late Harvest 2008
Nederburg Winemaster's Reserve Noble Late Harvest 2008
Mullineux Family Straw Wine 2008
Congrats to all..

25 August 2009

Called to the Bar for Bertus's Latest Coffee Pinotage

Bertus Fourie is the winemaker who achieved fame, and some say notoriety, for launching the coffee’n’chocolate Pinotage style upon the world while he was working at Diemersfontein. Some purists object that it is not varietally correct, but there is no doubting that Diemersfontein’s Pinotage is hugely successful and has introduced many people to the delights of Pinotage.

Bertus, by now nicknamed Starbucks, moved on to KWV for whom he created their mocha toned Café Culture Pinotage.

Bertus told me “I love to make ‘coffee Pinotage’- it is such a consumer friendly wine and I have met thousands of people as a result “

One of the people he met was Martin Venter, developer of Val de Vie Lifestyle Polo Estate, who offered Bertus the position of managing director at associated Val de Vie Wines in 2004.

Val de Vie specialises in Rhône style wines, so when Bertus and Martin got the itch to create their own coffee Pinotage a new label was called for, and Barista is its name.

Barista Coffee Pinotage 2009 will be released soon, marketed by Vinimark in South Africa, and I hope to taste it soon and report back.

23 August 2009

24 October is POT Day

POT -- Pinotage on Tap -- takes place on 24 October this year. The popular annual festival celebrates the release of the new vintage of Diemersfontein’s famous coffee’n’chocolate Pinotage.

They’ll be music from aKING, Haydn Gardner's Swing Band and Lonesome Dave Ferguson. Food includes Pinotage friendly canapés, an XX-large chocolate fountain and strawberries, snack-pack goodie bags and ‘some frolicsome Pinotage games’ are promised.

And, of course, barrels and barrels tapped and pouring 2009 Diemersfontein Pinotage.

Price stays the same as last year – see for full details and to book.

(The date this year is a month later than last year: if only they’d put it back an extra week I could have attended, grrrr!)

21 August 2009

DeWaal Top of the Hill 2006

Has it really been that long? Last Top of the Hill I tasted was the 2004 vintage when I visited the winery in 2007. Then I found the 2004 an “older style Pinotage, with firm firm dry tannins, less approachable fruit, and crisp acidity.”

This 2006 is a different beast being very approachable and well balanced with tannins well restrained on opening and an ideal wine with enough body to match food. The wine opens up in the glass showing ripe cherry flavours. The Top of The Hill is made for aging, and I think I’ll put away my remaining bottle to see how it develops, as the few dregs of this bottle were showing intriguing spices and plums when I emptied them the following day.
A well deserved Top 10 winner in 2008.

I must admit though my total puzzlement at the labelling. The front label does not mention the grape variety. The rear label has a vague all purpose waffle about “the diversity of soil and vineyard sites on this Stellenbosch Kloof Estate enable judicious partnering of classic varietals with ideal terroir.

What relevance does the diversity of vineyard sites on the farm have to with this specific wine? It is a single vineyard wine from a named vineyard which happens to be on the top of a hill, not in a ravine as kloof implies. Not only that, but the historic Top of the Hill vineyard is planted with the world’s oldest Pinotage vines. I’d have thought that was worthy of mention.

18 August 2009

2009 is a good vintage at Wildekrans

Wildekran's winemaker, William Wilkinson, reports that

2009 is been a very good vintage. Our yields are up from the previous vintage and our red wines show clean fruit flavour with excellent soft tannins. Pinotage and Shiraz would be classed as our premium red cultivars.

Our Pinotage Barrel Selection could be described as a multilayered complex full-bodied wine which was matured in first fill French American 225 litre barriques. Being a rather cool climate area our Pinotage lean more to fresher style that brings out strawberry, raspberry, cherry aromas well balanced with integrated bouquet of vanilla butterscotch and cherry tobacco. Ageing potential of about 10 years and recently rewarded with 2009 Silver Decanter Medal.

I'm looking forward to tasting it :)


03 August 2009

Anura 2007 Pinotage

Anura is not a winery I’m familiar with.

They bottled their first wine in 2001 and in 2008 won Pinotage Top 10 with this, their 2007 vintage. I opened my first bottle of Anura last night and heartily concur with the Top 10 judges. This is a very good wine.

Packaging is not quite there. The bottle is a classy heavy one and the front label is good, but the rear label has a blurb printed in tiny dull gold against black that is difficult to read and is confusing. Resorting to the Anura’s informative website all becomes clear. Anura means frog, which explains the image on the front, and is taken from the name of a hill on their farm. We used to find frogs in our garden when we had a small pond but that is now filled in and planted with courgettes and beans that get eaten by unseen predators the moment they emerge from their flowers. However a benefit is that we no longer find mutilated frogs after mowing our lawn.

I was expecting a DIAM technical cork at the end of my waiters’ friend but found a smoothed natural cork which was stained with wine along its length and top. So I was concerned for a while about the seal.

The first sip was rewarding with an intriguing spiciness which became less apparent as time progressed. The wine was smooth as an ivory boat with silk sails on a mill pond and twice as enjoyable. This was not one of your exuberant braai Pinotages with big flavours that leap out the glass but a quietly elegant one you could take to a Michelin starred restaurant knowing it wouldn’t embarrass. That’s not to say there wasn’t any fruit: layers of flavour yielded plums and raspberry restrained by tannins that were there if you were paying attention, but again they didn’t shout about it. This is one of those wines where you pour another glass while saying “I can’t believe how good this is – oh, we’ve finished it.”

Although some of Anura wines are available from Anura's fullfilment partner in Europe, the 2007 Pinotage isn't one of them, and I can't find any stockists in Europe or the USA, but Grapeland in England list the 2005 vintage Pinotage.

Anura Pinotage 2007
WO Paarl
14.5% abv (actually 14.63%)
60 ZAR

31 July 2009

Muddy Water and Rijks in Cork

That's correct. There's a cork in Rijk's Pinotage but Rijks and Muddy Water are also in Cork: the fine city of Cork, Ireland, at Curious Wines.

Curious Wines were so impressed with one of New Zealand's best Pinotages, the magnificent 2006 Muddy Water, that they have gone to the trouble of importing it themselves.

They say that the Rijk's and Muddy Water 2006 are the very best Pinotages they have ever tasted, and that Rijk's is "proof that South Africa is capable of truly world class wines."

With wines like these, "Pinotage may some day be as popular as Merlot."

Visit http://www.curiouswines.ie/ to order.

27 July 2009

Wine Spectator - "If you like Pinot but have never experienced a Pinotage, you owe it to yourself to try one"

Wine Spectator's James Laube recently blind tasted a flight of 2007 Sonoma Pinot Noirs and found one

"that stood out, and that I really liked. It was dark in color, notably spicy and peppery, with pretty floral scents and ripe, vivid black and wild berry fruit. Tight in structure, dense and concentrated, even a tad rustic, ending with a complex array of fruit, herb and anise, with firm tannins.

My first reaction: Is this a Syrah? Had I missed the change in varietals in the lineup? Did we shift from Pinot to Rhône reds? The wine certainly fit the critique some people have of some California Pinots--that is, they’re too big and almost Syrah-like in their structure, strength and flavor profile.

When the bags came off, the wine made sense. It was a 2007 Pinotage ($38) from J Vineyards and Winery. I liked the new J Pinots, too, but the Pinotage caught my fancy that day, and later that night as I tried it after it had had eight hours of aeration. It was still going strong the next day.

It’s a wonderful wine. If you like Pinot but have never experienced a Pinotage, you owe it to yourself to try one and taste the crossroad of Pinot and Cinsault, or the point where red Burgundy meets the Southern Rhône."

Read the full review at http://jvineyards.blogspot.com/2009/07/james-laube-of-wine-spectator-on-j.html


26 July 2009

Pinotage Judges Struggle

Judges at the 2009 ABSA Top 10 Pinotage Competition found it particularly difficult to select just 10 winning wines from the 139 entries.

Allan Cheesman, former Director of Wine for Sainsbury's supermarkets in the UK and now a consultant to several wine businesses, said "I have been tasting wine for 37 years and this was a great experience, with all the superb wines, breathtaking Cape winelands and the sincerity of the Pinotage people. More than ten years ago Pinotage was like shepherd's pie, every granny made it differently. Today the Pinotage red wine from South Africa is a benchmark in the global world of wine as a top quality international variety. Pinotage and Chenin blanc are South Africa's icon red and white wines, you own them. It was almost impossible to select the top ten wines and I also would have had a tough time ranking the top thirty."

South African wine writer Neil Pendock said "it was a very hard task to select the top ten. More than 100 of the 139 wines which we tasted are of top quality, hardly any of those wines were disappointing. At least thirty wines deserve to be winners. The 2007 vintage produced most of the great wines."

Duimpie Bayly, Cape Wine Master and convener of the panel agreed. "The wines showed elegance and beautiful fruit, while sensible wood treatment created a fine balance of flavours. There were very few bad wines and the 2007 vintage stood out with wines of supreme quality. The competition was very strong and even choosing the top thirty wines would not have been easy."In the first two days all the entries were tasted and on the last day the final 28 wines, followed by the final 20 wines and out of those the 2009 Absa Top 10 Pinotage Competition winners were chosen. Each of the twenty finalist wines will be tested for micro-biological activity by an accredited laboratory to ensure it has a long shelve life with natural Pinotage characteristics.

The results will be announced on 27 August at the Val de Vie Wine and Polo Estate near Paarl.

The judges of the 2009 Absa Top 10 Pinotage Competition, pictured above are, from left: Duimpie Bayly, Francois Naudé, Allan Cheesman, Neil Pendock, Wendy Burridge, Chris Roux and Gert Boerssen.

17 July 2009

Coffee & Chocolate Comes to California

A frequent query from America asks where to purchase Diemersfontein’s cult ‘coffee’n’chocolate’ Pinotage and up to now the reply was that it wasn’t available in the USA.

But now it is.

Cape Ardor in San Francisco, California, now stocks the original Diemersfontein Pinotage 2008.

Owner Eric Matkovich tells me “we can ship direct, and have been already, to about 33 states. This unique style of Pinotage is a perfect accompaniment to salmon, roast venison and even chocolate mouse, and seems to be a wonderful introduction for Americans to the world of Pinotage.”

Cape Ardor also lists other Diemersfontein wines, including their premium Pinotage, Carpe Diem 2006.

For more information contact Cape Ardor; details at http://www.cape-ardor.com/