29 December 2011

Christmas Pinotages

Christmas was an opportunity to open some special bottles.

Loma Prieta 2009 – Been keeping this for a few months (see http://www.pinotage.org/2011/08/paul-kemp-of-californias-loma-prieta.html ). This is a beautiful wine with soft dense fruit flavours, especially damsons. Just about perfect. I found this more immediately appealing than the 2008 and excellent drinking. Been garlanded in Platinum, Double Golds and Best of Classes in US wine competitions. I’m going to have to visit California to catch up on how they’re mastering this grape.

Kanonkop 2006 – intense compact brooding power, albeit restrained. Serious statement wine and beautiful with it. This was a Top 10 winner this year, tho’ I don’t know you can buy 2006 vintage. There’s a lot of sludgy sediment which leads me to think this wines evolving. I have a few more bottles so it’ll be interesting to try again, say next Christmas.

Stanford Hills Estate Jacksons 2007 – young fresh fruit flavours, red currants and blackberries from a newish estate in Walker Bay. Clean, lively and refreshing, tastes youthful, it’s a delightful drink. Deservedly 4 Platter stars.

Wishing you many fine Pinotages in 2012

19 December 2011

Australia Joins the Pinotage Family

Say hello and welcome to Topper’s Mountain ‘Wild Ferment’ Pinotage Viognier 2009, the first varietal Pinotage grown and made in Australia.

Owner Mark Kirby told me:

Topper’s Mountain is in northern NSW in a region known as the New England Tablelands which was recently granted a wine GI “New England Australia”. Being so close to the equator in viticultural terms at 29degS, the cool climate we experience is a result of altitude – the vineyard is at 900m above sea level. Being this far north in eastern Australia means our climate has summer dominated rainfall – we receive about 500-600mm in the growing season. This makes thin skinned, tight bunched varieties such as Pinot noir & Sauvignon blanc a bit of a challenge for us. This was the genesis of my selection of Pinotage – it has looser bunches and much thicker & tougher skins than Pinot noir (leading to less split from rain & fewer berries being popped off the rachis), but retains a lot of Pinot noir’s elegance & complexity.

I originally planted ~ 200 vines (1 row in our “Fruit Salad” experimental block or 0.1Ha) in 2003. Up until 2008 vintage we were using the Pinotage in various red blends. In 2009 our winemaker Mike Hayes and I decided to have a look at the Pinotage as a standalone variety and the initial results have been very encouraging; 91 points from James Halliday, a silver and a high bronze medal. On the strength of this potential I grafted another row over to Pinotage two months ago.

In the winery Pinotage doesn’t get much special attention other than extra effort to extract colour as it is like Pinot noir & Nebbiolo in that it can produce pale wines if you’re not careful.

It is a co-fermented wild ferment with less than 15% Viognier. We do wild ferment for the first 4-6 baume of all our wines & for the Pinotage Viognier & straight Viognier, we let the wild ferment go all the way. We did the co-ferment because Mike is of the belief that this is done a bit in South Africa with high end Pinotage to fill out the mid palate.

14 December 2011

Taste Pinotage Sunshine on 16 Dec

South African Wine News site wine.co.za is calling on every South African living abroad to share a drop of sunshine with a local on 16 December.

We would love every South African out there to open up a bottle of South African wine, and show your mates just how good our wine is - taste some sunshine, sunshine!

We have chosen the 16th December as it is a very special day for us South Africans, and it is right in the middle of the northern hemispheres winter... just when they need a little bit of sunshine in their lives - so spread a little bit of our sunshine, sunshine!

Get a great bottle of South African wine and sit down quietly and taste it with your mates.

Let them taste some of our sunshine. And of course, you don’t have to stop there...you could even open up a second bottle and then not so quietly share some of our sunshine.

And for those ex-pats out there in the land of OZ, or down the south of America, they might not need the sunshine, but you have to agree...
they do need to taste some good wine for a change, so get them to taste what makes us shine.

Then, please take some pictures and videos, and show us all what you did by posting them on the social networks (#tastewinesunshine) and at wine.co.za

And please tell us at wine.co.za so that we can organise this again next year.

So sunshine, what great South African wine are you going to taste this year !

And the answer is, obvious: PINOTAGE - Yea!!

18 November 2011

Presenting The Abraham Perold Pinotage Trophy

The Pinotage Association’s Abraham Perold Trophy for Pinotage, was won by Spier Wines for Savanha Naledi 2009 Pinotage.

Andrew Milne, Chief Executive Officer of Spier was presented the Abraham Perold Trophy by Peter May, honorary Member of the Pinotage Association, in the presence of HRH Prince Robert of Luxembourg, the IWSC President pictured left at the IWSC awards ceremony in London’s 600 year old Guildhall on Wednesday 16 November 2011.

The International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC) was founded in 1969 and is a premier competition of its kind. Its aim is to promote the quality and excellence of the world's best wines, spirits and liqueurs. This is achieved through a rigorous two stage judging process of professional blind tasting and detailed chemical and microbiological analysis.

The IWSC Judges said of Savanha Naledi 2009 Pinotage:

Opaque with bright purple rim. Highly perfumed nose with dark cherry, some truffle and lots of spice. Big, well rounded in the mouth with loads of body and fully packed with ripe fruit where as well as what the nose had plum and strawberry join the complexity. Supple tannins. Creamy flow and long, fruit filled finish.

Naledi, which is pronounced Nah-leh-di, is the Sotho word for ‘star’. The wine was made by Frans Smit.

The Pinotage Association’s Trophy is named on honour of Abraham Perold, South Africa’s first Professor of Viticulture & Oenology, who bred the Pinotage grape variety in 1925. The Pinotage Association exists to promote and maintain South Africa’s leading role in the production of quality Pinotage wines.

Gold winning South African wines on the tasting table in the Guildhall crypt

See also http://www.pinotage.org/2011/11/spier-wins-abraham-perold-trophy-for.html and http://www.pinotage.org/2011/11/spier-is-iwsc-producer-of-year.html

(photographs courtesy of IWSC. See photo's of the awards ceremony at http://www.iwsc.net/mediagallery/images/8?pg=1 )

Spier is IWSC Producer of the Year

Spier won the South African Producer of the Year Trophy it was announced on Wednesday evening 16 November
Andrew Milne, Chief Executive Officer of Spier received the Dave Hughes South African Producer of the Year Trophy from Dave Hughes in the presence of HRH Prince Robert of Luxembourg in front of 500 members of the international wine and spirits industry at the IWSC awards ceremony in London’s Guildhall.

Pictured left to right: HRH Prince Robert of Luxembourg, Dave Hughes, Andrew Milne.

Spier was picked from a shortlist comprising Kaapzicht Estate, Kanonkop Estate, Fleur du Cap, KWV and Nederburg.

16 November 2011

Spier wins Abraham Perold Trophy for Pinotage

This evening I am in the splendour of London’s 800 year old Guildhall at the International Wine and Spirits Competition (IWSC) awards ceremony. I am representing The Pinotage Association to present the Abraham Perold Trophy for Pinotage sponsored by the Pinotage Association to Spier Wines for their Savanha Naledi Pinotage 2009.

Spier, whose winemaker Frans Smit is pictured left, are on a roll. They also won the IWSC Mission Hill Trophy for Chardonnay for their Spier Private Collection Chardonnay 2009 and are on the shortlist for the IWSC Dave Hughes Trophy for South African Wine Producer, plus Best in Class Gold medals. And earlier this year Savanha Naledi Pinotage 2009 was a ABSA Pinotage Top 10 winner.

Spier is on the agenda of most people who visit South Africa’s winelands. Not only are there wines to taste but a hotel, restaurants and a large garden with a river and lake plus a cheetah outreach project where visitors can get close to these beautiful endangered creatures.

I’ve been going there for the past 15 year but until this year I knew very little about the wine side. Sure there’s a tasting counter but you can’t see any vines nor had a winery and I had assumed Spier was a sort of virtual operation, buying in grapes and renting winemaking space in other facilities.

How wrong I was. Not only do Spier have many hectares of vineyards behind the garden, just out of sight over a ridge and they also own or lease vineyards in other areas of the Cape. Their large winery is surrounded with trees and equipped with some of the most modern equipment in the world. They practise sustainable farming, for their vines and food served in their restaurant and are undergoing a vigorous programme of removing alien vegetation to replace with indigenous plants that they breed in their own nurseries.

I enjoyed lunch in ‘Eight at Spier’. This airy restaurant with outside seating has an open kitchen and serves a daily changing menu that depends on what is harvested on their own estate farm and other nearby farms. The food here is delicious, light and tasty and there is a good selection of meat free dishes.

I met winemaker Frans Smit and tasted a range of his Pinotages. They have several different levels, Private Collection, Signature Series and Vintage Collection, the new premium 21 Gables range plus the Savanha label used for some export markets.

In the winery I watched in amazement a new grape sorting machine (above) being put through it spaces. This high tech machine scans individual grapes passing through it on a conveyer belt at up to 30 km an hour If one of its lasers encounters something other than a perfect grape a puff of compressed air shoots the rejected item up where another burst of air jets it into a discard hopper.

The machine can be set to recognise different grades of grapes so it is possible to sort grapes destined for various bottlings. Spier hand sort grapes for their premium labels but there is not enough time to hand sort all the grapes for all their labels, but with the new machine they will be able to.

Congratulation to the team at Spier Wines and to winemaker Frans Smit.

11 November 2011

Chamonix Pinotage Wows Wine Soc

More than 120 members of The Wine Society in the UK attended a tasting of a selection of South African wines featured in their latest shipment and voted on their favourite.

Steve Farrow from the Society's Cellar Showroom reports that

"the clear winner was, unexpectedly, the most expensive of the offerings on show: the deliciously ripe and full Chamonix Greywacke Pinotage, 2007 from Franschhoek (£10.95). Pinotage is almost purely South African, being a crossing bred there in the 1920s from pinot noir and cinsault and rarely grown anywhere else.

It makes a real variety of red styles and when treated with proper care, as it has been by Chamonix, it can really shine. This example is made in the ripasso style more familiarly seen in the Veneto of Italy which provides it with real velvety depth and richness. Our tasters bought more of this than any other wine and understandably so."


01 November 2011

Jennifer Molgat of The View talks Pinotage - video

The View is a fifth generation farm set in fruit orchard country south of the town of Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada. The winery name comes from the amazing view of Lake Okanagan from the highest part on the farm where the tasting room was planned to be built. But that is on hold and tastings take place at the winery and office in an old apple packing facility next to the roadside.

Here I met the ebullient owner, Jennifer Molgat (pictured left inspecting Pinotage), winemaker Bernhard Schirrmeister and vineyard manager Willem Semmelink. It is Jennifers red stiletto shoes that have become the winery's logo and each wine comes with a shoe pairing recommendation.

Eight years ago they planted 4 acres of Pinotage and because the variety was successful they have planted another 4 acres. The soil is sandy loam with some clay on the lower slopes.

Four varietal Pinotages are produced. “We make North America’s only Pinotage Rosé,” says Jennifer. Named Distraction, 2010 is the second vintage and is bright pink, clean and fresh and dry with a tang of red grapefruit flavours. This is a grown–up’s rosé and it won ‘Judges Choice’ and a Gold medal in the rosé category at the Okanagan Spring Wine Festival. (Shoe pairing: “Nothing…you will want to feel the sand in between your toes”)

The View wines are in demand from restaurants and Red Shoe Red is a Pinotage produced for the on-trade and closed with a screw-cap because that’s what restaurants request for wines served by the glass. I tasted the 2009 vintage. 60% is aged in old oak. It is dark red with soft red-berry fruit flavours, cracked black pepper and a dry finish. It’s lovely stuff. (Shoe pairing: 4 inch Red spike heels)

2009 Pinotage Reserve had some juice bled off to intensify the remaining wine by increasing the skin to juice ratio. This has an inky dense black red colour and a tangy taste at first that ends in lingering smooth dark chocolate and cherry flavours. I really enjoyed this serious delicious wine. (Shoe pairing: Anything Jimmy Choo)

2008 Pinotage is lighter, with an expressive nose and bright strawberry flavours and a touch of sourness on the finish. (Shoe pairing: Louis Vuitton penny loafers)
Jennifer drove me up the hill behind the winery to see the views of Kelowna and the lake. We passed vines laden down with large black bunches of Baco Noir which will be sold to other wineries, and pale green Riesling.

Pinotage is grown on high trellises and some of the older vines are on their own roots but phylloxera has been detected nearby and the new Pinotage vineyards (pictured above) are grafted.

While in the mature Pinotage vineyard with its ripe bunches soon to be harvested, I asked Jennifer to tell us about her Pinotage:

The View produce the funniest winery video's I have seen. Make sure you see the Red Shoes in winery action at theviewwinery.com/video.html

26 October 2011

Sizanani Pinotage and Empowerment - Randall Peceur on Video

Earlier this month I met Randall Peceur (pictured above) at Cape Wine Europe. I’d first encountered Randall some years ago in Bellevue Estate winery when he was working in their tasting room pouring wine for visitors. Now he is the managing director of Sizanani Wines, the empowerment company set up by Bellevue and now 100% owned by the workers at Bellevue.

Randall told me “The main focus of the company is the upliftment of the farm workers. Before they would work all day in the vineyards and winery but had no knowledge of what their future would hold for them. Now with this project they have a tangible link to their future and more importantly in the future of their children. We strongly believe that if we can empower them and uplift them and give them something to live for, they will become stronger, be homeowners and heads of households and be more caring.”

In the above video Randall talks about the benefits of empowerment to the workers and tells us about the 2008 Sizanani Pinotage.

Sizanani has had export success including a contract to supply own label Chenin and Pinotage for UK supermarket chain Morrisons.

I was keen to taste Sizanani 2008 Pinotage. I was surprised at that 2008 vintage was still current but Randall explained the wine had long aging in old wood barrels.

The wine had an attractive lavender nose, it is light in colour and lightweight in the mouth. Randall said the intention was to make an easy drinking wine to attract those that didn’t usually choose wine. It is certainly easy pleasant drinking but my own tastes lean to Pinotages with a bit more ‘oomph’ about them.

21 October 2011

Lake Breeze, Okanagan - Video

Lake Breeze wine farm occupies a commanding position above Lake Okanagan, on a strip of ancient shoreline known as the Naramata Bench. There are around 25 wineries along this strip of land between mountain and the lake.

Lake Breeze is the only one to describe itself as a 'wine farm', a common term in South Africa, where the first owners had lived for 25 years. Lake Breeze was the first winery in Canada to plant Pinotage, and 1999 was the first commercially released Pinotage vintage. Only small quantities are made from a lakeside plot less than half an acre in size.

Garron Elmes is the South African born winemaker. I managed to grab him away from th harvest for a few minutes to tell us about Lake Breeze Pinotage.

I found Lake Breeze 2009 Pinotage bright ruby red, clean and fruity with red cherries on the palate and a hint of cigar box. There was some depth and it was a most enjoyable wine. It costs $29.90 CDN (+tax) at the winery.

14 October 2011

Diemersfontein Exports "Coffee Lite"

Diemersfontein invented the coffee accented Pinotage category eleven years ago. Their wine has been described as a cult and has a sell out annual festival, Pinotage on Tap, in its honour. A dozen other wineries have followed their lead by making coffee Pinotages.

The latest vintage available in Europe, 2010, now says COFFEE PINOTAGE on its front label. But that is not all that has changed. In a move that reminds me of the ‘New Coke’ story, export versions of the wine have had the coffee accents reduced. “This is to let the fruit be more prominent,” says Aubern Williams who staffed Diemersfontein’s stand at Cape Wine Europe this week. “But the original format will continue to be sold in South Africa,” he explained.

I found the wine seemed a lighter, thinner version of the wine I remembered - more Birds Mellow blend than Starbucks...

I don’t understand why the winning formula has been toned down for the export market at the same time as ‘coffee’ has been added to the front label for the first time and I asked Aubern to explain.

Aubern works in the Diemersfontein tasting rooms and he was in London to show Diemersfontein and the Thokozani empowerment project wines

If you are in the Cape then you should be going to Diemersfontein on 22 October for the annual POT day to celebrate the release of the 2011 vintage 'coffee Pinotage' (original recipe) - see here for details.

10 October 2011

Cape Wine Europe opens London 11 October

Cape Wine Europe 2011 opens its doors tomorrow, 11 October, to the public from 18:00-21:00 in Earls Court’s Brompton Hall

More than 200 wines will be available for tasting, with competitions and biltong and South African Macadamia nuts sampling.

The producers Pinotage Association stand will be showing the following wines:

Altydgedacht Pinotage 2010
Beyerskloof Pinotage Reserve 2008
Diemersdal Pinotage Reserve 2010
Fairview Primo Pinotage 2009
Kanonkop Pinotage 2009
KWV The Mentors Pinotage 2009
L'Avenir Pinotage 2009
Laibach Pinotage 2010
Lyngrove Platinum Pinotage 2009
Meerkat Pinotage 2009
Neethlingshof The Owl Post Pinotage 2009
Rijk's Private Cellar Pinotage 2007
Simonsig Redhill Pinotage 2008
Spier Private Collection Pinotage 2008
Wellington La Cave Pinotage 2009
Windmeul Pinotage Reserve 2009 (Limited Release)

Tickets can bought online (delivered by email) for £12.50 per person from http://blog.winesofsa.com/events/cape-wine-europe-11th-october/ or on the door at £15 per person

03 October 2011

A Visit to Stoneboat Vineyards - Video

Lanny Martiniuk invited me to meet him at his winery. We’d corresponded about Pinotage while I was writing my book and at last I was able to visit his vineyard where he grows eight acres of Pinotage and taste his wines.

Stoneboat Vineyards and winery are on the eastern bank of the Okanagan River which connects the 85 mile long glacial Okanagan lake with Osoyoos lake, part of linked series of lakes in a very long glacial valley that runs north-south through British Columbia through the US border.

The land here was once all underwater and then as waters receded it left flattened benches that used to be shore lines. Stoneboat is on the Black Sage Bench where the soil is sand over gravel. “We have half a metre of good sandy soil on top of 50 metres of gravel.”

It is the sand that gives protection from phylloxera and Lanny’s five acres of Pinotage, like the rest of his vines, grow on their own roots. “Phylloxera isn’t a problem like the cold is,” he says. “When a vine is killed during a cold winter I just clear a depression in the soil and the roots send up a new cane and the vine regrows.”

The vineyards are 3,500 metres about sea-level and 30.5 metres above the river. Lanny adds nitrogen to the soil and sometimes has to spray sulphur as a fungicide but he doesn’t need insecticides. Stoneboat uses drip-feed irrigation on the Pinotage rows: the southern Okanagan is desert and no crops can grow here without watering.

In this video Lanny talks about growing Pinotage on Black Sage Bench.

Lanny and Julia have three sons: Chris who works on the farm when not training as a pilot and twins Jay and Tim who work on the farm. Jay is responsible for winemaking and Tim manages marketing. Here they talk about winemaking and more.

Stoneboat also grows six different Pinot Noir clones, Pinot Gris and Pinot Blanc plus some white Germanic varieties: Kerner, Muller Thurgau, Oraniensteiner and Schonburger.

We left the vineyard to taste wines on the tasting room patio. I had to tell Lanny that I had already tasted Stoneboat Pinotage. A few days before we found the 2008 on the wine list of a restaurant in Penticton. We’d loved its intense fruit flavours and complexity.

Lanny started us with Pinot Gris which was dry with a pleasant acidity. Chorus 2010 had an attractive floral nose. Its blend of Pinot Gris, Pinot Blanc, Kerner, Muller Thurgau and Viognier offered a delightful fruitfully complex drink. 2009 Pinot Noir was a pale red with soft fruit and a clean finish.

Pinotage 2009 was recently released. It was bright garnet, rather subdued, with a pleasant fruit nose but a little disjointed on the palate. It needs longer to come together.

Pinotage 2007 had a leathery nose and was lively in the mouth. It is an exciting wine with cedar wood and spices in abundance. This wine won the Lieutenant-Governors Award of Excellence in British Columbia Wines, one of twelve selected from 248 entries. “We checked the wines were tasted blind because there are some preconceptions about Pinotage”, said Lanny, “and there were some surprised faces when the awards were announced.” ($25)
Pinotage 2008 is dense and complex with black fruits, damsons, cherries and a spiciness that makes it so drinkable. ($25)

Pinotage ‘Solo’ 2007 is a reserve made from the best barrels. It is a bright red-black colour with a ripe fruit richness and cedar-wood flavours and is absolutely beautiful. ($33)

We finished a enjoyable tasting with Verglass 2009, a very sweet botrytis wine made from Oraniensteiner with 5% Pinot Blanc. Just 10.2% abv and a residual sugar of 30g/L from grapes picked at 50-55 brix, this smelled of whole baked apples and had an unctuous sweetness with enough acidity to encourage another mouthful.

Lanny is a viticulturist who started in the business by propagating and planting vines for other vineyards, and his business continues to propagate thousands of vines for others.

This was the first time I have encountered a Pinotage varietal made from vines growing on their own roots. Lanny says he selected individual vines which performed well in Okanagan conditions to propagate so this vineyard is making a truly Okanagan Pinotage that expresses the terroir of this beautiful lake and desert area.

Stoneboat’s name refers to the wooden sled (pictured above) used to haul unwanted stones from the vineyard. Lanny says that no matter how many they take out, others work their way to the surface and now they leave them there. The stones are smooth and rounded from millennia in rivers that flowed through here in times long past.

01 October 2011

Feedback on the book from NZ

Just posted on the blog

Hi Peter,

We are a Belgian couple who have lived for 9 months in South Africa near Cape Town. During this period we fell in love with the Pinotage wines and we tried to taste as much of Pinotage wines and visited many of the estates. I Bought your book "Pinotage ..." in South Africa and found it very interesting.

Today we are in New Zealand for a couple of months and I remembered that you wrote about a Pinotage wine in New Zealand.

Today we visited the Te Awa Estate and I begged to taste the Kidnapper Cliffs Pinotage ... and it was ... fantastic.

Of course I bought a bottle to take home.

Kindest regards

Hans and Veronique.

PS; Thanks for writing the awesome book about the Pinotage. It helps to resolve many of the discussions we had with friends about Pinotage and it has now a special place in my wine Library.

21 September 2011

Hillside's Last Pinotage

Hillside Estate, on the eastern shore of Lake Okanagan just north of Penticton, is one of five wineries in Canada making Pinotage. But no more. After three successful years the 2009 vintage, bottled in October 2010, is sadly the last.

The winery make a wide range of wines and have decided to concentrate on varieties they grow themselves. I learned that Hillside doesn't grow Pinotage but obtain the grapes from Stoneboat Vineyards in Oliver some 40 kms south.

At the tasting room, pictured below

their 2009 Pinotage was listed with the words 'sold out' written over the message that because of demand purchasers were limited to three bottles.

However Hillside's bistro has some Pinotage stocks remaining for sale by the glass, so we decided to lunch there and sample the last release from this winery.

The wine was taut and restrained with some tight tannins. Dark cherry and blackberry flavours over a meaty core and forceful tannins. This is a big and serious wine which would reward keeping. But the only way to do that is to persuade the bistro to sell you a bottle at bistro prices. Alternatively it is currently available by the glass for $9.50.

Hillside Estate
Pinotage 2009
13% abv

15 September 2011

Pinotage is Best Cheese Match

Pinotage, which is the national red grape of South Africa, is one of the best kept secrets in the wine world, as it almost always works beautifully with hard cheeses, such as Gouda, cheddar, and Gruyére. It is often quite inexpensive, but the lower-priced versions can be inconsistent, often throwing an unpleasant taste of burnt rubber on the finish. Yet when paired with almost any hard cheese, it seems to come to life.

"Dark Lady of the Labyrinth" is 100 percent Pinotage of very high quality. Black cherry, melted liquorice, and spicy cloves wrap around a core of dark chocolate and rich coffee. While a lesser Pinotage works well with a mild cheddar or Swiss, it takes a full-bodied Pinotage like "Dark Lady" to stand up to the intense flavors of a powerful cheese such as the Beemster Classic.

Gloucester Times - Massachussets, USA 13 Sep 2011

Dark Lady Pinotage is produced by Doolhof Estate, Wellington

25 August 2011

Pinotage Top 10 2011 - Results

  • Beyerskloof Reserve 2008
    • Stellenbosch - Anri and Beyers Truter
  • Diemersdal Reserve 2010
    • Durbanville -Thys Louw with Marí van der Merwe
  • Fairview Primo 2009
    • Coastal Region -Anthony de Jager
  • Kanonkop Estate 2006
    • Simonsberg / Stellenbosch - Abrie Beeslaar
  • KWV The Mentor’s 2009
    • Stellenbosch - Johan Fourie
  • Laibach 2010
    • Stellenbosch - Francois van Zyl
  • Rijk’s Private Cellar 2007
    • Tulbagh - Pierre Wahl
  • Schalk Burger & Sons Meerkat 2009
    • Wellington - Jacques Wentzel
  • Spier Naledi 2009
    • Stellenbosch - Johan Jordaan
  • Windmeul Cellar Reserve 2010
    • Paarl - Francois van Niekerk

Congratulations to the winners of this years Pinotage Top 10 Competition, listed in alphabetical order. The 20 finalists were posted here.

It is the 9th time in the Top 10 for Kanonkop and the 6th time for both Beyerskloof and Rijks and by my reckoning, with 5 wins while at Kanonkop and 6 wins at Beyerskloof it means it is winemaker Beyers Truter' 10th time in the Top 10, the most wins by any winemaker!!


24 August 2011

Neil Ellis on his 2009 Vineyard Selection Pinotage - Video

Veteran winemaker and accomplished Pinotage producer Neil Ellis takes us through his 2009 Vineyard Selection Pinotage, msourced from a single vineyard in the Jonkershoek Valley.

Video made by and courtesy of the good people at WineFilms South Africa

22 August 2011

Paul Kemp of California's Loma Prieta. - Video

Paul Kemp, owner of Loma Prieta Winery in California, joined me for dinner earlier this month as he paused in London on his journey home from South Africa to San Francisco.

Paul has become enthused with Pinotage and believes he is now the largest Pinotage producer in the America’s, having bought in all the grapes he could find to add to his own increasing plantings.

While he was in the Cape the Pinotage Association had arranged a series of tastings during which he visited winemakers at Simonsig, Beyerskloof and Kanonkop Estate. He told me he was blown away with the breadth and quality of the wines he tasted. He had not been able to find many South African Pinotages back home.

He had shipped a case of his own Pinotages to the Cape for tasting and had saved two bottles for me.

We started with a sparkler I was certain Paul wouldn’t have previously encountered, the Ridgeview Estate Merret-Cavendish 2006 methode traditionelle, an excellent English estate sparkler.

Paul suggested we opened his 2008 Loma Prieta Pinotage and keep the 2009 for later. He wanted the wine decanted, but I poured the wine to see how it developed in the glass.

At first it reminded me of an Italian wine because of its acidity which made it ideal for food pairing. After about 15 minutes the wine softened and became more voluptuous with juicy berry flavours and after about 40 minutes it was showing underlying coffee flavours. The evolution was most interesting. I am not sure I would have identified this wine as Pinotage in a blind tasting although the later coffee aromas were a hint. It was an excellent wine rich in berry fruits and rewarding drinking.

Paul says that he can sell all he makes of his Pinotage and has customers who pre-book cases. In the USA many wineries operate ‘wine-clubs’ where subscribers receive regular shipments of wine and Paul has started a Pinotage only club which already has a thousand members committed to buying his Pinotage. That’s one of the reasons Paul is fast planting more Pinotage, a variety he thinks has a bright future in California.

We also opened Te Awa 2006 Pinotage from Hawkes Bay and L’Avenir Estate 2003, made by Francois Naude whom Paul had met in the Cape. Te Awa was most delightful, lean like a greyhound and L’Avenir was at its peak of elegant maturity.

I have since heard that Loma Prieta 2009 Pinotage won a double gold and best of class in the Indy International Wine Competition. Paul says "I am bottling next week so I will have both the second bottling of the 2009 and the new 2010. I think that the 2009 that will be bottled will be better than my 2009 that now has won 3 golds
and 1 double gold."

Congrats Paul!!

30 July 2011

Pinotage Top 10 Shortlist

1. Altydgedacht 2010
2. Lyngrove Platinum 2009
3. Beyerskloof Reserve 2008
4. Diemersdal Reserve 2010
5. Fairview Primo 2009
6. Kanonkop 2006
7. Kanonkop 2009
8. KWV The Mentor’s 2009
9. KWV Cathedral Cellar 2009
10. Laibach 2010
11. L’Avenir 2009
12. Rijk’s 2007
13. Schalk Burger & Sons Meerkat 2009
14. Simonsig Redhill 2008
15. Spier Naledi 2009
16. Spier 21 Gables 2009
17. Spier Private Collection 2008
18. Wellington La Cave 2009
19. Windmeul Reserve 2010
20. Windmeul Reserve 2009

The final 10 will be selected from these 20, the names are in alphabetical order. The list was released a month early apparently because it had been widely leaked.

Interesting to see the inexpensive 'lifestyle' Meerkat in the final, and three from Spier, plus a number of familiar names.

source: wine.co.za

20 July 2011

Proudly Pinotage at the New Forest Show

Pinotage will be poured during the three days of the New Forest & Hampshire County Show 26 - 28 July, 2011, held at the New Forest Show Ground near Brockenhurst.

UK importers Cape Wine Cellars in association with The Pinotage Association will be showing 11 wines – one rose, four ‘coffee’ style, three ‘easy drinking’ and three barrel matured Pinotages.

Cape Wine Cellars are also selling Pinotage taster case of the wines from their website at www.capewinecellars.co.uk at £99 with free deliver, a saving of £21.

The wines at the show will be

Beyerskloof Pinotage Rosé 2011
Beyerskloof Pinotage 2010
Hill & Dale Pinotage 2009
Neethlingshof Pinotage 2007
Ashton Kelder Pinotage 2011
Alvi’s Drift Pinotage 2010
Diemersfontein Coffee Pinotage 2010
Doolhof Dark Lady Pinotage 2010
Hidden Valley Pinotage 2009
Knorhoek Pinotage 2008
Tukulu Pinotage 2008

Cape Wine Cellars and The Pinotage Association are promoting a Proudly Pinotage campaign in the UK supported by the website www.proudlypinotage.co.za which has a competition for South African wine and book hampers

08 July 2011

2009 Vintage is the Best

Judging for the 2011 Top 10 Competition has been taking place this week. Neil Pendock is judging again and he blogs "In several years judging the ABSA competition, these 2009 wines are the best I’ve ever tasted."

He was less impressed with the previous days wines from 2006, 7, 8, 10 and 11 vintages.

The judges are photographed in what looks like an attic and there is no sign of the sophisticated desktop scoring computers introduced some years ago when I last judged.

I don't have much 2009 myself except for a case of the Fairview 2009 that was a Top 10 winner last year which I ordered from the winery.

22 June 2011

Yngvild Steytler talks about Kaapzicht Pinotage - video

It is always a pleasure to meet the tireless and irrepressible Yngvild Steytler and taste her impressive Pinotages.

20 June 2011

Gary Vaynerchuck's Pinotage

Gary Vaynerchuck likes Pinotage. In his latest video tasting he opens 2009 Diemersdal Pinotage and 2007 Chamonix Greywacke Pinotage, rating them 88+ and 89+ points.

Some interesting comments and individualistic tasting descriptors!

See Gary here


PINOTAGE book now in iBookstore

PINOTAGE: Behind the Legends of South Africa's Own Wine is now available from Apple's iBookstore as an iBook for the iPad and iPhone.

This joins the Kindle version and traditional original paperback in making the book available on a wide range of platforms.

Apple - http://itunes.apple.com/us/book/pinotage/id442165834

Kindle* at Amazon.com - http://www.amazon.com/dp/B004GXB3TO

Kindle* at Amazon.co.uk - http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B004GXB3TO

Paperback at Amazon.com - http://www.amazon.com/dp/0956152309

Paperback at Amazon.co.uk - http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/0956152309

For signed & dedicated copies buy directly from me using the links to the right.

In South Africa the paperback is on sale in the Delheim winery giftshop, Kanonkop Estate's tasting room and Book Cottage in Hermanus.

*also readable on Android, BlackBerry, PC, Mac, iPhone, and iPad using the free Kindle App.

17 June 2011

Escapades Pinotage - Video

Escapades is another label new to me. A partnership from Greece have bought a small farm in the Bottelary Hills and constructed a winery to make 70,000 bottles of four premium Estate grown varietal wines.

I met Stelios Samaras at the London International Wine Fair who told me that the Escapade winery had been set up by winemakers Evangelos Gerovassiliou and Vassilis Tsaktsarlis with marketeer Takis Soldatos, whose Mare Magnum company makes wine in Italy and six other countries.

Escapades has a striking bottle with its gold bands and this is the first Pinotage that I know that has been made by a Greek winemaker

Maceration and fermentation was in stainless steel tanks for 10 days at a relatively low temperature ranging from 20-25°C. After malolactic fermentation the wine was matured for 12 months in 100% new French Allier oak barrels before bottling and undergoing bottle aging.

The 2008 Escapades Pinotage is good example of the variety with some lush ripe fruits and it is pleasant drinking but I thought the pricing – not finalised but they expect it to retail northwards of £25 - to be rather ambitious for the first vintage from a new label.


04 June 2011

Kanokop Kadette is 'Beautifully structured'

I think Kanonkop's Kadette 2009 Cape Blend is the best vintage they have ever made, and I have bought cases of it for my wine tasting and home consumption. I first tasted it at the winery in January and said very impressive ... this vintage is a step up, being much more serious. There’s less upfront obvious fruit and a classic linearity.

In today's Telegraph Victoria Moore picks it as one of her top summer wines.

Kanonkop Kadette 2009

There’s no mistaking the origin of this bold red: it’s a big, smoky South African blend of pinotage, cabernet sauvignon, merlot and cabernet franc, aged in old French oak. Beautifully structured, with notes of roasted coffee beans and leather. It would be brilliant with blackened barbecue meat – spare ribs and steaks.

'Beautifully structured' - yes, spot on!


02 June 2011

Vino Con Brio Sold

Vino Con Brio winery in Lodi is closing on 5 June and the property has been sold on the retirement of the owners, Mike and Renae Matson.

Vino Con Brio has the largest Pinotage plantings in America. They make their own Pinotage, which I have tasted and its a good clean fruit forward modern wine, and they sell grapes to a number of other wineries who want to make Pinotage.

This follows the sudden sale in March of New Zealand’s Muddy Water winery to neighbouring Waipara producer, Greystone. Muddy Water made one of my favourite NZ Pinotages, a powerful ‘no prisoners’ taken statement wine. Winemaker Belinda Gould, Muddy Hill’s winemaker of eleven years lost her job.

New Zealand journalist Sue Courtney called the Muddy Water 2009 Pinotage “voluptuous” and that it was a wine that “totally seduces the senses in every way - a wine that lovers of full-bodied reds will find hard to resist.” Sue is doubtful that Greystone will continue with making Pinotage.

Sad news when two top non-South African Pinotage wineries close in few months of each other.

31 May 2011

007 Drinks Three Cape Ladies Pinotage Blend

Carte Blanche, the new James Bond novel written by Jeffrey Deaver, has James Bond choosing Warwick’s ‘Three Cape Ladies’ Cape Blend to accompanyhis seduction of Felicity Willing.

“ ...vintage Three Cape Ladies, a red blend from Muldersvlei in the Cape. Bond knew its reputation. He took out the cork and poured. They sat on the sofa and sipped. “Wonderful” he said.”

Three Cape Ladies is a delicious Cape Blend of Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage, Merlot and Shiraz.

Picture courtesy of Mike Ratcliffe's blog at blog.warwickwine.com

26 May 2011

Neal Martin is 'Excited by Delicious old Pinotage'

Some interesting comments about Pinotage from Neal Martin who was one of the international judges at this year’s Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show. Neal Martin is a Bordeaux expert and one of Robert Parker’s team. This was his first visit to South Africa.

When asked about Pinotage Neal said

“South Africans love Pinotage like English love fish and chips and we know that fish and chips is never going to be the top sashimi in Japan but we still love it and we’re still proud of it and we’ll always keep eating it.

Just like Pinotage maybe it’s never going to be a Chateau Latour, but certainly there is a definite improvement which is good to see and it’s just a case of tackling the stigma that surrounds Pinotage and that is a case of going to the producer who aren’t making good Pinotage, giving them a slap on the wrist and telling them to sort it out.”


“I have to say when we had the ’61 Pinotage it completely blew me away. It was as exciting as any extremely expensive wine I’ve had because it completely changed my perception and opened my mind.

The month before I’d tasted half a dozen ’61 Bordeaux and it was just as enjoyable, if not more so than those. We had a half bottle of ’59 Zonnebloem.

One of the things that was interesting was that a couple of people said where did we lose our way. If we can make that in ’61 why are we getting such bad press now, which I thought was really interesting.

The winemakers were asking themselves how does that Pinotage age for 50 years and still taste so fresh. It was delicious.”

Results of the competition will be published on 1 June 2011

Source: Judges feedback published in Wine magazine online 25 May 2011


25 May 2011

Koopmanskloof Koffeeklip Pinotage 2010 - Video

Koopmanskloof is a winery new to me. Anriënka (call me Anna) Vlok told me it is in the Bottellary Hills where the soil type is a shale known as Koffieklip which proved to be a convenient name for their new coffee toned Pinotage.

Anna shows us a piece of Koffieklip as she tells us about the Koopmanskloof Koffeeklip 2010 Pinotage

I thought the coffee tones were very muted in this tank sample and I wouldn't have identified this as a 'coffee style' Pinotage if it wasn't for the name. It's a pleasant modern berry fruited wine with - yes - maybe some coffee lurking in the background, but this is a sample and it will be interesting to taste the finished wine.

The bottle in the film has a temporary label but the actual - rather attractive - label is shown below.

23 May 2011

Rijks Pinotage – The Pope of Wines - Video

I noticed a new wine with an oak coloured label on Rijk's stand at this year’s London International Wine Fair: Rijk’s Touch of Oak Pinotage.

Winemaker Pierre Wahl was happy to tell us about this addition to Rijks range of Pinotage wines.

If found the wine pleasantly fruit forward with the oak well hidden and was surprised when Pierre said it had spent 14 months in oak, but old barrels. That’s how oak should be, supportive but not overt.

I think Touch of Oak Pinotage is a wine made for enjoying now but the standard Rijk’s Pinotage ages well. Checking my records I find I have been drinking Rijk’s 4 – 6 years after vintage and they have been perfect -- but I’ve none left now.

Pierre calls his Pinotage the Pope of wines, because it converts all who taste it :)

20 May 2011

Aaldering Pinotage at LIWF

Hit of this years London International Wine Fair, which ended yesterday, was the new Wines of South Africa (WoSA) stand.

In a major break from previous years wines were available in a welcoming self-serve format. Instead of individual winery stands each with a pourer behind the counter, visitors were invited to ‘help themselves’ from a large number of themed circular pods.

Playing on WoSA’s long running slogan Variety is in our Nature was a stand invoking a sideshow tent at a travelling circus.

Colourful pods had headings including Cheerful Chenins, Wonderful Wellington, Splendid Swartland and Stars of Tomorrow. At the stand’s corners were towers of clean glasses topped by bottles of mineral water with an invitation to ‘help yourself’.

Bottles on pods nestled in individual holders and underneath each were containers of business card with wine and contact details.

I headed to the Popular Pinotage pod where I tasted the wines in turn. The first that made an impression was from Aaldering a name I had not previously encountered. It was a Stellenbosch WO from the 2007 vintage – the oldest wine on the stand -- and its red colour was getting a brownish tinge. There were mulberry fruits and a creamy almond nuttiness on the palate with a spicy finish.

By chance I met Janine Smink who is the Global Marketing & Sales Manager for the brand and she introduced me to owner Fons Aaldering, a Dutch business man who in 2004 bought the Devon Valley property previously owned by Hidden Valley winery.

Janine said that the Pinotage vines for their 2007 Pinotage were 15 years old and that Aaldering keep back their wines until they are mature before they are released. Currently sales are mostly to restaurants in Netherlands and they are looking for distribution in England and elsewhere.


For more about WoSA's stand at LIWF see


14 April 2011

On the Pinotage bandwagon

My good friend Sue Courtney in New Zealand is
"on the pinotage bandwagon once again and the reason why is because it makes terrific wine. Proof is in two recent Wines of the Week – Kidnapper Cliffs Hawkes Bay Pinotage 2009 two weeks ago, and this week Karikari Estate Northland Pinotage 2008.

Don't like Pinotage? Wonder what I'm on about. Well, have you ever tasted Pinotage? Or if so, when did you last actually taste one without any preconceived notions in your mind? Because if you have preconceived notions you are living in the past? It's 2011, not 1967."

Read the rest of Sue's report on her always interesting Wine of the Week blog here.

02 April 2011

Mochatage Pinotage 2009

Seems every month a new coffee ’n’ chocolate Pinotage is added to the pack. When supermarkets get their own label version then you know it is entering the mainstream.

Mochatage is Marks & Spencer’s take on the category and the front label leaves no room for doubt about its taste and how that is achieved.

And it’s pretty good, not overpowering although distinctly coffee-ish, but there’s also some silky ripe berry fruit flavours underneath. I could face a second glass of this and I think it’ll please shoppers pining for the loss of Diemersfontein’s original from Waitrose’s shelves.

The wine is made by Thys Loubser at KWV: is it their Café Culture under a different label? Anyway, £6.99 at M&S in a screwcap.

Good back label, too.

30 March 2011

Bellingham 'Bernard Series' Pinotage 2009

The Bernard Series is named after Bellingham’s original winemaker Bernard Podlashuk who was one of the innovating pioneers of South African wine.

Dense purple colour, looking much younger than its 2005 vintage, In the mouth this is a ripe voluptuous black cherry flavoured wine, yet restrained like a Ruben’s beauty in an Agent Provocateur basque, full of promise but keeping some back.

Afterwards I read on the back label that the wine has been aged in oak barrels for 18 months and yet the wooding is not apparent – except maybe as that corset and from the sediment the wine is already throwing.

This is a beautiful clean modern wine, mouthfilling and rewarding and thoroughly recommended. From bush vines growing in Darling.

The website is www.bellinghamwines.com but it doesn't appear to have been updated since this time last year.

In UK this wine is available from Majestic at £14.99, currently reduced to a more reasonable £11.99. And while there, try a bottle of the excellent Bernard Series Old Vine Chenin Blanc.


12 March 2011

Outstanding Pinotage from Bosman Family Vineyards (video)

I tasted some superb wines while in the Cape but the most memorable was Bosman Family Vineyards Pinotage 2009.

Bosman is the winemaking arm of the long established Lelienfontein vine nursery owned by eight generation Jannie Bosman. Their impressive property has terrific views over vineyards to surrounding mountains. Fields contain the bright green growth of new vines sticking out the ground pencil thin and a foot high, planted inches apart and destined to be plucked packed and despatched to the vineyard that ordered them 18 months in advance.

Petrus Bosman in a nursery vineyard

There are also established vineyards growing a range of varieties, some such as Primitivo (from Puglia) and Nero d'Avola (from Sicily) that are not found as varietals in South Africa, yet d’Avola grows well, says cellar master Petrus Bosman. Until recently grapes were sold on and vine rows leased to various wineries. Coloured tapes at the end of rows indicate ownership and there’s a monetary definition of terroir -- that rather nebulous concept of place. Here neighbouring rows can cost different rates to lease as one produces better grapes than another. Maybe it’s the position on the curve of a hill, one gets more sun another just below the brow is sheltered from wine. Terroir has a value set on it.

I was grateful to Petrus for showing me his foundation nursery where new vine varieties are produced. This is a large temperature controlled greenhouse entered via an airlock where foundation vines are grown hydroponically in sterile conditions. The vine grows up, supported by wires from the ceiling and is not pruned. Canes thrown out will be cut and in turn grown to produce virus free mother block vines. These will be planted in remote areas to in turn produce cuttings for vines for commercial use.

Foundation vines in the nursery greenhouse

Because wine drinkers are conservative, preferring to drink, in most cases, varieties grown for hundreds of years none in the greenhouse were meant for wine. Instead there were new varieties of table grapes, grapes destined for drying and American vines for rootstocks.

When the Bosman’s eventually grew tired of seeing other people win major prizes for wines made from Bosman’s grapes they decided to make some for themselves. They offered the position of winemaker to Corlea Fourie. Corlea took time out from her busy schedule to pour the following Pinotages for me:

2010: This was still in barrel, French oak, some 500 litre capacity. Soft and fruity with underlying coffee, it’s a work in progress and will have more oak aging to further refine it.

2009: This had been bottled but was not yet labelled, undergoing bottle aging before release. On the nose it had a hint of coffee and in the mouth it was a sensation being big, round full and galumphing offering sweet ripe bramble berry fruits and with a racy exciting finish. Corlea said 2009 had been a late vintage and Petrus added that he grows Pinotage on a west facing slope to get the afternoon sun. He says Wellington is a superb location for Pinotage. This wine was aged 14 months in 225litre barriques, 60% French and 40% American oak. I was absolutely knocked out by this fantastic wine.

2008: This was a more subdued version of the 2009, drier and more tannic with a slight underlying coffee flavour. An excellent wine, but the 2009 had taken all my superlatives.

Vintage was underway and Corlea was in her working clothes but I managed to persuade her to tell us her thoughts on video about the 2009 Pinotage.

Many thanks to Corlea and Petrus.

See Corlea talking about her 2008 Pinotage here

There are a handful of wineries making Zinfandel but although Zin and Primitivo are the same I think there are distinct clonal differences between them; they have different sized berries and ripen at different time. Bosman's vine material was sourced from Puglia, Italy, the home of Primitivo. Bosman's list a 2007 Primitivo wine on their website

06 February 2011

First Vintage for The Perold Vineyard

The Perold Vineyard which was planted in October 2008 is now bearing its first crop due for harvest in the next week or two. The crop will be small owing to the youth of the 1,000 Pinotage vines but it is hoped that one barrel of wine will be produced.

I received news of the vineyard planting as I was finalising my book and it made an appropriate Epilogue because one of the books themes was the lack of public recognition Perold received.

I had not seen the vineyard myself however, something I put right aided with directions from the ever helpful Pierre Loubser who has now retired as manager of the Pinotage Association.

The vineyard occupies a triangular shaped piece of land at the junction of two roads in Stellenbosch, near the university, in thegrounds of a historical buidling called Mosterdrift.

The land is owned by the Stellenbosch Institute for Advanced Study who are using the vineyard to research row positioning in relation to the sun. The vine rows are laid out like the ribs of a lady’s fan, radiating from a central point.

Inserting trellis poles and planting vines proved unexpectedly difficult as a considerable bed of large sandstone boulders were found just underneath the surface soil, and the photo’s show some that were uncovered. The vineyard is being farmed organically, indicated by the grass growing between rows.

The vineyard is clearly visible from the street, from where my photographs were taken through a fence, on the corner between Marais and Jonkershoek.

03 February 2011

Freedom Hill

Freedom Hill is located south of Paarl on the R301 towards Franschhoek. I wanted to visit because I’d come across their name on the wrapper of Francois Naude’s 2009 Vin de Francois as supplying a barrel to that blend. Francois is a winemaker I greatly admire and he truly understands Pinotage and as he is making Pinotage for Freedom Hill then I really wanted to taste it.

Freedom Hill is on a hill with a building above mature vineyards that slope down to the road. Heavy bunches of tight small black berries hanging from vines lined the access road. Wine is not made on the premises; grapes are taken to Stellenbosch Hills winery for processing.

We were warmly greeted by Ryan Brendenkamp, co-owner of Freedom Hill restaurant, who showed us to the tasting room to another friendly welcome.

From the veranda you can look back over the road to the Drakenstein Prison complex whose green roofs show above the trees. It was from here, when it was named Victor Verster Prison, that Nelson Mandela was released and took his first free steps. And that event inspired the name on the labels.

It was a hot day, we’d waited 20 minutes at road works on the R301 so started our tasting with a crisp lively Sauvignon Blanc.

The vineyards below grow four red cultivars: Shiraz, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot (which they sell) and Pinotage. I’d come for the latter. There were two Cape Blends, (2006 Freedom Hill 35% CS, 34% Ptage, 31% Shz & 2008 Freedom Walk 42% CS, 29% Ptage, 29% Shz)on offer and which I was keen to taste since I am looking for a Cape Blend to present at a tasting when I return home in a few weeks, and one Pinotage.

Unfortunately all three reds were warm, tired, dull and lifeless. There were signs there once had been some rich fruit after one got past the flat beginning. Then I saw, after pouring, all three bottles being vigorously pumped with those so-called vacuum wine preservers (which have a reputation for flavour-scalping)and on asking learned that the bottles had been open for three days.

The tasting room manager then did offer to open a new bottle but I’d lost heart. I bought a bottle of the Sauvignon Blanc and Pinotage which I opened the following evening after slightly chilling it.

It was a different wine from the corpse in the tasting room. There were fresh chunky fruits and it was big, rather rough around the edges and rustic in style. Enjoyable, but not the elegant sophisticated complex masterpiece that is Francois Naude’s trademark and which I’d hoped for. Then I noted this was the 2008 vintage, the previous vintage to the one Francois had use a barrel of for Vin de Francois 2009.

02 February 2011

Gold for Loma Prieta Pinotage 09

Loma Prieta Winery, a boutique winery in California's Santa Cruz Mountains mountains email to share the news that their Loma Prieta 'Amorosa Vineyard' 2009 Pinotage, has won a Gold medal at the US International Winemaker Challenge competition.

Loma Prieta are sourcing fruit from Vino Con Brio's Amorosa Vineyard in Lodi while their own Pinotage plantings growto maturity.

Congrats to all!

31 January 2011

Picnic at Warwick Estate

To Warwick Estate on the R44 north of Stellenbosch towards Paarl. This time last year they had builders constructing a new tasting facility and now it is complete. From the noise, dust and bulldozers then I had expected wholesale destruction and rebuilding, but that has not happened.

The old historic barrel cellar has been most sympathetically modified to include a delicatessen and much expanded tasting room displaying Warwick’s current and library wines for sale.

The wooden deck I remember from my first visit in 1996 is still there, overlooking the lake and there is a new open area shaded by trees under which tables and chairs are dotted.

Near the lake are shelters woven from branches in which you can picnic with foods from the delicatessen and fresh baked ciabiatta bread. A cleverly designed cardboard box contains a cold meal for two: open it to find small jars of chutney, dips, hummus, couscous, salmon smoked on the farm over wine barrels, charcouterie, cheeses and more and to finish off there’s incredible brownies and a bag of Maynards Wine Gums to take away.

But what about the wines? Warwick are known for their ‘Old Bush Vine’ Pinotage and the latest vintage release, 2009, is on track to be one of the best. Deep plummy yummy fruits on the front are followed by rather firm tannins on the finish. The wine spent 14 months in second and third fill 225L barriques and I think it needs a little more time in bottle for the fruit and tannins to meld.

To my surprise while I was in the tasting room a party from The Circle of Wine Writers arrived for an invited tour and tasting. Many were friends with whom I had visited other wine regions and they insisted I join them for a tour of the vineyards in Warwick’s safari truck and Managing Director and co-owner Mike Ratcliffe kindly invited me to picnic with them afterwards.

Mike's new intensely planted trellised Pinotage vineyard is now coming on stream and he remarks that the ‘Old Bush Vine’ labelling is now more of a brand name because grapes from trellised vines were also used. Production has increased to meet growing demand. Mike revealed that some Pinotage grapes had been partially dried and blended in to give added complexity and that this year he was experimenting with making an Amarone style Pinotage. But he said that he was always experimenting and admitted most didn’t work out the way he hoped.

I also tasted Warwick’s ‘Three Cape Ladies’ 2007 Cape Blend. I had enjoyed this a few days previously at a braai with friends. Originally a blend of three varieties, this vintage contains a fourth — a dash of Merlot. The other three are Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinotage and Shiraz. It is a popular and classy wine, like good Bordeaux with a richness and sweetness you don’t find in claret.

Mike mused if the name required him to use just three varieties or whether his mission was to make the best wine he could for that vintage and he felt that if a splash of Merlot (he thought maybe 5%) improved it, he should go ahead. Mike said he was going to increase the percentage of Pinotage from next year now that he had more producing vines.

Mike was in a philosophical mood. He posed a question about whether old vines produced better wines than young vines that started a long discussion among the wine writers. But he soon was back to business when viticulturist Ronald Spies, who’d walked us through the vineyards, arrived with bunches of Pinotage grapes. They tasted so ripe and sweet, but Mike detected unripe stalks and said he’d instruct that their imminent picking was delayed for another week.

Warwick are proud that their Bordeaux blend Trilogy has just been selected by The Wine Society for aging. Several thousand cases would be held back for some years until judged nicely mature for release; this was the first South African wine to be treated this way.

Cellar Door prices: Warwick ‘Old Bush Vine’ Pinotage 2009 costs 95R, Three Cape Ladies 2007 is 105R and Trilogy 2008 is 235R. Warwick Wine Family Club members get 20% discount.

Warwicks vineyards looking towards the Simonsberg mountains