My book PINOTAGE: Behind the Legends of South Africa's Own Wine is now availabe as a Amazon Kindle eBook.
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I get the "what makes your wine industry unique?" question a lot, and Pinotage is right up there with boerewors, Nelson Mandela and World Cup Rugby champions. That's why Argentinian malbec does so well in America, because it is an Argentinian calling card. My American customers know South Africa produces a wide variety of quality wines, but so do many other countries. But what makes us unique is Pinotage.
I actually start off by offering my customers a chance to taste a good red wine without telling them what it is. After I have identified it for them and told them the Pinotage stories, it's an easy sell. It's not brain surgery, but it works every time.
“it is our first wine under our new Estate label, launched this month, that has achieved an accolade and all kudos go to our wonderful terroir and our cellar master Jacques Wentzel.”
“these grapes were specially selected and hand harvested with plenty of hands-on devotion during the vinification process. The Estate boasts some impressively senescent soils and this is prevalent in the intensity and multi-faceted character the 2008 Pinotage.
What makes this wine ever so more special is the divine coincidence that the fruit was harvested on Valentine’s Day, 14 February 2008. We can truly lay claim to the fact that it was made with love!!”
“With careful vineyard management and conservative winemaking we intend to explore the full potential of this somewhat unfashionable variety. We expect such wines to have a distinctive personality and an enhanced cellaring potential. This Pinotage has a vibrant purple-red colour and a nose which speaks of an armful of roses, red skinned apples and baking spice. Layers of fine fruit tannin and savoury characters balance the flamboyant berry fruit and rose petal flavours. The underlying structural integrity of this wine suggests a good future in the cellar.”
"Have you tried pinotage yet? This attention-getting cross of pinot and cinsault was created for South Africa: it takes pinot to a new level. Pinotage puts a gun to your head and holds you hostage. It's as relentless as a 13-year-old bent on a tattoo in a questionable location.
There is nothing subtle or delicate about this wine. It is the big sister of pinot noir, the one who can change her own flat tire, the one who would never expect to have the door held open for her. No, this is a big strapping girl who would not hesitate to thumb a ride from a complete stranger or fling her sturdy legs over the back of a motorcycle and head on down the road of life.
The 2008 J Vineyards pinotage delivers a relentless onslaught of flavors that begin with ancho chili, basil and cedar aromas; then it takes your palate on a crazy, wild ride with sensual flavors of crisp red plums, bright red currants, exotic guava and green banana, sun-dried tomatoes, red licorice and green olives. Truly an amusement park ride for your mouth: great for celebrating the return of summer. Order some; they'll be happy to send some J your way."
Lammershoek does for Pinotage what Henry of Pelham does for Baco. It puts a charming spin on a rustic grape variety. This combine the lush richness of a Rhone with the earthy feeling of a Portuguese red. Sexy with a light roughness
not a wine that’s popular with everyone but this version just might change a few minds: Full of flavour with coffee and mocha notes, cherry, plum and smooth tannins, I was rightfully impressed here
Now, who doesn’t like Pinotage? Oh yeah? Well, check out what you're missing. Handpicked and hand-sorted. Fermentation in open concrete tanks, then Malolactic fermentation. Aged in French oak barrels (20% new) for 12 months. Unfiltered.
Without wanting to sound like I am not a fan of this varietal, which incidentally, I do struggle with, this is one tasty Pinotage. One needs however, to be a fan of coffee as the Mocha note is somewhat overwhelming, but behind it lays sweet blackberry fruit, dark silky chocolate and a note of clove. The palate bears pure clean dark fruit, a note of espresso, a hint of molasses and crisp clean acidity. The finish is long and well balanced. Not to be missed I should add.
"Tasted in the LCBO laboratory, it merely rated an 88/100, which is good for any pinotage, in my book. But it showed hints of tar and asphalt and rustiness among the sturdy fruit. Then I got a hold of another bottle and what a difference. All of a sudden, it rose to first class, with rich smoky coffee bean, blackberry and summer plums wrapped in a totally silky texture. This rates 90.
I frankly do not know which batch will be hitting shelves. If it is the silky seductive one, it is definitely worth a serious detour as this summer’s quintessential barbecue red. If it is the rougher-edged, more rustic pinotage, then it’s slightly overpriced"
"Wineries assemble final wines from different tanks and casks, and sometimes absolute consistency of aromas and flavours falls by the wayside between the various bottlings."
"I was thinking about 'six degrees of separation' ....... my muse whispered, “Why not a relationship between Petite Sirah and Pinotage?” On the surface the idea sounded implausible, but these two seemingly different grapes do share some things, and maybe at one of those six levels Petite Sirah and Pinotage are related"
“We are looking for a full-bodied and tasty wine with substantial tones of roasted coffee, chocolate, spices and dark cherries. The wine should partly be aged and fermented in oak barrels.” They require a “Stelvin Screwcap closure” (hooray) and a “colour picture on the bottle with readable label.” Interesting, does that mean they want a Swedish language label? This wine will retail at between 70-99SEK.
“We are looking for a fruity, elegant and balanced wine with integrated character of oak barrel and hints of dark berries, spices and herbs. The wine will not be visible smoky, jam or burnt notes. The wine should be aged at least 12 months, mostly in French oak barrels.”
2009 ‘Distraction’ Rosé $13.95
Perhaps North America’s only Pinotage bleed, it’s hard to find anything quite like it. I wouldn’t be surprised to find some copycats in future years. Exhibits wonderful strawberry notes reminiscent of a purely Pinot Noir Rosé, but the pomegranate and cherry are incomparable and addictive! A fantastic Rosé at an even more fantastic price. Don’t disappoint yourself. This will sell-out fast.
2009 Pinotage $19.95
Much darker in colour than their previous vintage, this Pinotage features lots of red fruits and spice that carries through on the finish. A great food pairing wine (if you are barbequing, this is a must!), but equally enjoyable on its own. Winner of ‘Finalist’ award at 2010 Okanagan Spring Wine Festival.
"The first time I tried Pinotage some seventeen years ago in Johannesburg I was lost. Completely overwhelmed and swamped by a wave of tastes, ideas and subtle signs I had never experienced beforehand.
It was like plunging into a meadow of unfamiliar flowers, unknown birds singing in strange tunes about lands I could only have ever guessed at. That wine was so different than anything I tasted before.
My pretty modest wine knowledge at the time couldn’t help me understand it, so probably out of genuine curiosity I swiftly fell in love with Pinotage..."
Good bright colour cherry red colour and vanilla strongly on the nose. Has a creamy mouth feel offering subdued blackberry flavours, vanilla and a slightly dusty finish..
For all the years I have known Kanonkop their range has been limited to four wines, all red. Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon, Paul Sauer Bordeaux blend and Kadette Cape Blend. This year has seen two new wines join the team, Kadette Pink Pinotage and the seriously expensive Black Label Pinotage with its hologram logo on thefront and individual bottle number on the back.
Thanks to the generosity of owner Johann Krige I was able to taste both at the recent London wine show.
I wasn't keen on the pink Kadette 2010 which had too much bubble-gum about it for me but the Black Label 2006l!!
Wonderful rich silky ripe deep concentrated plum and bramble berry flavours, perfectly balanced, like an even more refined version of their usual bottling. This is a seriously good wine.
I understand this wine is meant for keeping – so speculators can trade it – but it is drinking so well now, a real delight but one few people will be able to drink.
(Quality of the label photo's was affected by being on an glass counter with lights underneath .)
"by knowing the owner and winemaker of Vino Con Brio in Lodi, CA. I liked the wine so much that I got one ton in 2008 and five tons in 2009. This year I will probably do close to 20 tons which may make my winery the largest producer in the USA. I have already grafted over 500 vines to Pinotage and will plant another 500 bench grafts."
"It has the soft fruit and perfumed flavors of pinot noir and the backbone and earthy, spicy notes of a syrah or cabernet sauvignon. If pinot noir is described as a feminine wine and cabernet sauvignon as a masculine wine (yes, these are lame gender stereotypes; female soft, male brawny), then Kemp’s pinotage exhibits traits of both. It’s got yin and yang going on in equal measure.
In spite of its relatively high 15 percent alcohol content, pinotage is not the fat fruit grenade you might expect. Yes, it’s a big wine loaded with juicy, round grape and blueberry flavors, but the acid and tannins balance and tame what could otherwise be a sloppy, lip-gloss-covered kiss of a wine. As pinotage decants in the glass, it seems to get a little leaner and racier.
That lively acidity makes pinotage great with food, too. Unlike South African pinotage, Kemp’s wine lacks the telltale banana flavor. He says he didn’t like the few South African pinotages he tried. He is out to make a California pinotage."
Johann Rupert pulled out two very old wines – a 1982 Rustenberg cabernet sauvignon and a 1974 Meerendal pinotage – which we drank after the formal tasting. Both were lovely, complex aged wines but it was the Pinotage that provided the big surprise. Pinotage is South Africa's one indigenous grape varietal, a cross between cinsault and pinot noir, and has been described by critics as having no redeeming features.
Yet here was an aged Pinotage that was balanced, luscious and with none of the bitter aftertaste that characterises so many younger pinotages. The lesson: even a capricious style flourishes under the African sun if nature and nurture are applied in the correct balance.
"'I've no bloody idea' and I still don't. I do know one thing and that is that Pinotage is capable of producing in many different personalities some really sublime wines and those are some delicious memories I will take away with me."
"There was one which was my wine of the whole tasting, which I hope comes from a cooler area. It was much more Pinot like, tighter, had a nice sort of fynbos quality to it; something really individual which you felt came from where it was grown. The other ones which are fuller, richer wines also lovely characters, miles away from that old acetone, rusty nails, whatever, not over-oaked.
And if the Viognier wasn't found in the Shiraz, we think some of it's come across to the Pinotage. Carefully used with some benefit, but again Viognier is a pushy bloody grape and if you put more than just a dab in and it'll overpower the grape that's really the dominant one, specially if Pinotage is on the label.
Cabernet I felt had less character than the Pinotage"
"Pinotage blends was a very small class, but there is a wine there that is fantastic."
"the palpable strength of the Pinotage class. When I walk in as Show Chairman and there's this kind of line-up of stuff that they want to show me for gold, I'm thinking we can't have ten Pinotage golds, we've got to knock a few of them out.
The truth of the matter is that is was a really lovely class. There is a statement in the number of golds coming out of it, but one thing is absolutely clear, the days of judging Pinotage being a little bit of a penance are over. It had excitement, it has fruit sweetness, it had fewer faults than ever and it's certainly something worth discussing at greater length."
I didn’t feel like going the obvious road of Pinot Gris or Chardonnay with halibut. It’s tougher and more rewarding to find a red that goes with the delicate halibut. In this case I chose the Stoneboat Pinotage Solo 2007 served slightly chilled (20 minutes in the fridge), which if I may toot my own horn for a minute, was a great choice. The Pinotage was a nice compliment to the red pepper puree. The wine was interesting enough, but not overwhelming, and I think it tied it all together quite nicely.
Steltzner Vineyards (“Steltzner”), located in the Stag’s Leap District in Napa Valley, is known for producing an excellent Pinotage each year and is one of the few local wineries to do so.
A quality Pinotage is recognized for being medium-bodied and subtly flavored. Steltzner’s 2005 Pinotage accomplishes both of these elements. The 2005 Pinotage presents a nose which has an ever-so-slight floral note of lavender, warm allspice, cherry and an essence of smoke. In the mouth, the wine is a medium-bodied red wine with a smooth feel. The tannins are not overwhelming (nor should they be), which allows the fruit flavors found in the wine to burst forth.
Soft notes of cherry (which is characteristic of grapes from the Stags Leap District), spice and a tiny dash of white pepper dance across the palate. Red wine lovers should readily embrace this Pinotage and wine aficionados who typically wrestle with the overly bold, tannic red wines of Napa Valley should love this wine, too. If the wine’s mere accessibility is not enough, given the characteristics of both the nose and the mouth, it is readily apparent that this Pinotage will pair beautifully with a wide range of foods. In short, the discovery of Pinotage is a giant “win” due to its versatility.
Jay: Well, is there a wine that you really don’t like?
Lettie: Pinotage, the red grape of South Africa (and fortunately nowhere else, at least that I know of). I loathe Pinotage. How a wine like that was actually deliberately created is one of the great vinous mysteries to me. It has all the charm of a burnt tire in a glass. Years ago when I served a Pinotage to a neophyte wine friend of mine, he actually suggested I not only dump out the wine but bury the bottle in my backyard. True story. In other words, I know I’m not alone in hating on Pinotage.
"Abrie [Beeslaar -- winemaker] described the vintage as “difficult” because of patches of uneven ripeness in the grapes, but also expressed satisfaction with “what we have in our tanks”. He reckons the 2010 Kanonkop wines will most likely not have big tannic structures and this will allow the expression of fruit in the wine to be more upfront.
The Pinotage yield at Kanonkop was down by more than half. A Black South Easter in October last year, during the crucial flowering stage, blew away more than half the normal crop. But a recent tank tasting of 10 Pinotages revealed some promising wine. It was a blind tasting for me – I could not connect block numbers on the samples to the age of the vines in the various blocks – and the wine from the 1953 block stood out prominently. This and some other Pinotage are undergoing malolactic fermentation in new French oak barrels."
Meaty beef jerky, blackberries, plum, pumice, ash, sweet herbs and sweet tobacco scents on the lovely nose. Really falls short on the palate and the finish.
Bummer, I liked the last vintage. This just thins out too much.
In the evening, a lovely Pinotage. No oxymoron…a lovely Pinotage!but he hasn't disclosed which one.
Inniskillin 2006 Discovery Series Pinotage:
I decanted this Pinotage for about an hour before serving it.
Made from 100% Pinotage grapes, this wine presents blackberry jam, smoke, the earth, and something a little tropical (banana?) on the nose, along with juicy fresh ripe raspberries, red fruit, spice and soft tannins on the palate.
It paired well with a grilled strip loin steak, oven-roasted rosemary potatoes, and home-made Caesar salad. But you know what? It worked okay as a sipper on its own.
"has aromas of raspberries, is light-bodied with balanced tannins, a long finish and and a structure similar to a great Pinot Noir. Great red wine for a picnic or anytime you are looking for a red with light fruity flavours."
"This is a sexy little wine that..... starts with a nice aroma of raspberries and pretty fruit forward on the palate, has a just enough tannins to let you know it has some Syrah components to it (which I love)and then with a long finish that reminds you of the Pinot noir grape."
"the early Pinotages are possibly some of the best that I have seen from this farm. Soft, supple tannins and rich fruit, but none of that jammy overripe character. They promise to be lovely, elegant wines."
"we spent some time tasting through the cellar and looking at the 2010 wines so far. Overall things are looking very good. I think that the producers who managed to get their fruit in before the heat will do well.
On the Pinotage front we were really impressed. We picked a fair amount of our Pinotage earlier, to try and reduce the final sugar and resultant alcohol levels. We were able to do so because of the moderate and steady ripening period.
The first Pinotages are really looking great. Supple and soft, but really full fruit flavours. Not that over ripe character. The would be enjoyable to drink chilled right now, but some have been sent off to barrels and we'll watch them over the next 6 to 12 months."
A Year in Paarl
A I Perold's
A I Perold (1880-1941) was South Africa's first Professor of Viticulture and Oenology. He dedicated himself to improving the quality of grapes for wine, brandy and the table. He studied wine and brandy production in Europe, imported more than 60 varieties to the Cape and bred new ones. Perold said this book “is intended to serve both the student and the practical grape-grower. There are in it technical passages that will appeal more to the student, e.g. the chapters dealing with the biology of the vine, its external and internal morphology, the theory of grafting. My remarks on the practice of viticulture, such as those dealing with the propagation, manuring and pruning of the vine, the production of table grapes for export, will, it is hoped, assist the practical grape-grower as well as the student.” This is a newly typeset reprint, not a photocopy. Text on the 712 pages have been aligned to match the original pagination so any external references to pages in the Treatise will be valid in this edition
Available in paperback and hardback editions. 712 pages
A I Perold
A Year in Paarl
Dr Perolds report on his Paarl experiments 1915 - 1916 reprinted with glossary, introduction and brief biography. Fascinating historical document on viticulture for wine and table grapes, wine and brandy making.