31 December 2013


Purity of fruit, linear and elegant, this is a delightful wine that left a contented smile on my face.

This really classy 2011 vintage from the Parker family at Altydgedacht in Durbanville won Pinotage Top 10 in 2012.

In English speaking countries you might find it labelled Ralph Parker   to save us struggling with pronouncing  Altydgedacht, as Richard Parker explains here

29 December 2013

Top Pinotages of 2013

Top rated Pinotage producers in 2013 are Beyerskloof, Kanonkop, KWV, L'Avenir and Rijk's, according to Mike Froud at Top Wine SA.

Mike collates scores awarded during the year to South African wines by judges at blind-tastings around the world during the year.  

For the full list of top Pinotages, plus the best wines costing under 100 ZAR, see Top Wine SA

30 November 2013

WOTM - Cape Spring 2012

My Wine of the Month for November is Cape Spring Pinotage 2012.

This was served, to my surprise, on a British Airways flight from London to Chicago. The red wine choice was between Pinotage or a southern French red and the cabin attendant told me Pinotage was most requested, a fact borne out by them having exhausted supplies on the trolley’s next trip up the aisle. 

The wine was light both in colour and body and had pleasing red berry flavours which were most refreshing at 30,000 feet.  

I don’t know anything about this wine other than Cape Spring appears to be a brand of French drinks’ company Grands Chais de France (GCF) and this wine was bulk shipped and bottled by GCF at their Caves De Landiras Winery, France, in airline sized 187.5ml plastic screw-capped bottles. It was then imported to the UK for British Airways by specialist suppliers to the travel industry Ratcliffe & Brown.

During my weeks in the USA I encountered only one Pinotage – the excellent Kanonkop Estate 2011 during a dinner sponsored by Wines of South Africa at the American Wine Society annual conference in Sandusky, Ohio. WoSA made an excellent choice to show case South African wines, as can be seen from the selection on the table in front of me.

25 November 2013

Kanonkop Winemaker Launches Own Label

Abrie Beeslaar, winemaker Kanonkop Estate, has launched his own eponymous label with  4700 bottles of a single vineyard 2012 Pinotage.

 Christian Eedes says it is 'magnificent' - his review is here

Abries' site at www.beeslaar.co.za has details and a technical sheet about his new wine.


23 November 2013

Forget Pinotage's genetics

Forget Pinotage's genetics and concentrate on what's in the glass and how it was grown and made is the sensible conclusion of Bertus van Niekerk's thoughtful and interesting article Why you need to forget everything you know about Pinotage’s genetics at wine.co.za


13 November 2013

KWV The Mentors Wines Perold Trophy at IWSC

The Abraham Perold Trophy for Pinotage was won by KWV The Mentors Pinotage 2011.

The Trophy, which is sponsored by The Pinotage Association, was presented this evening at the International Wine and Spirits Competition's awards ceremony in London's 800 year-old Guildhall to KWV Wines by Peter F May  representing The Pinotage Association.

May, (centre in photograph) an Honorary Member of The Pinotage Association, said "I am proud  to present the Trophy on behalf of The Pinotage Association this evening. The IWSC Abraham Perold Trophy honours the creator of Pinotage, it encourages winemakers to achieve ever better wines from the variety and it recognises those who do.  KWV The Mentors 2011 is one superb example of the fine wine Pinotage is capable of."



31 October 2013

WOTM - Mellasat Enigma 2011 & Kanonkop 2009

For October exceptionally I have chosen two Wines of the Month - one white and one red.

This month I celebrated a very significant birthday with a lunch in a local restaurant to which all my relations and friends were invited. I chose a restaurant that allowed corkage because I wanted to serve my choice of wines – and the still wines would be – as you’d expect – Pinotage.

White was Enigma White Pinotage 2011 from Mellasat Vineyards in Paarl. Mellasat made the first commercially available white Pinotage. It’s a most impressive wine and had guests puzzled – most thought it French and assumed it was a white Burgundy. The wine had wood aging with battonage and it’s complex and rewarding.

The red was Kanonkop Estate Pinotage 2009. That year was one of the best vintages for a decade and it offered dense mulberry and blackberry flavours, yet I think with more time it will show even better than it is now.

The day was a great success and a considerable amount of wine was consumed and new converts to Pinotage were made.

30 September 2013

WOTM - Beyerskloof Reserve 2006

My Wine of the Month for September is Beyerskloof Reserve 2006. After a week in Alsace where pale thin Pinot Noir is served very cold  I longed for the body, flavour and warmth of a decent Pinotage, and what is more reliable than Beyerskloof?


I’d intended keeping this longer, the back label suggest up to 15 years, but it is drinking beautifully now. Youthful exuberance has given way to a more precise sleekness and tastes of red plums with a trace of dark chocolate on the finish. Suddenly we were looking at an empty bottle. Delicious.

Beyerskloof Reserve 2006 was a Top 10 Winner in 2008.

Altydgedacht's Richard Parker talks Pinotage - Video

Richard Parker of Altydgedacht Estate in Durbanville talks Pinotage and introduces the Estates's new Ralph Parker export label for those who, like me, struggle to pronounce Altydgedacht.

I thought I'd got the hang of I'll take d' dog but listening to Richard's pronunciation  it's clear I'll have more success asking for a bottle of Ralph Parker in a South African restaurant.

28 September 2013

Cape Blend 2013 Winners

Congratulations to the winners of the 2013 Perold Absa Cape Blend Competition:

Anura LB 'Cape Cuvée' 2012
Clos Malverne 'Spirit of Malverne' 2011
KWV 'Abraham Perold Tributum' 2011
Sumaridge 'Epitome' 2009
Viljoensdrift 'River Grandeur Cape Blend' 2011

This year, exceptionally, five winners were chosen instead of the usual three. The winning winemakers will enjoy a foreign trip as their prize.

KWV Abraham Perold Tributum also won last year, the only wine to win the competition twice. Anura will be  double celebrating  because their varietal Pinotage was a Top 10 winner this year.

45 wines from 35 producers were entered.

The make-up of the winning blends are as follows 

Anura:  Pinotage (34%), Merlot (17%), Shiraz (17%), Cabernet Franc (17%), Cabernet Sauvignon (15%)
Clos Malvern: Pinotage (50%), Cabernet Sauvignon (33%), Shiraz (17%)
KWV: Pinotage (30%), Shiraz (40%), Cabernet Franc (15%), Cabernet Sauvignon (15% )
Sumaridge: Shiraz (54%),Pinotage (46%)
Viljoensdrift: Pinotage (30%), Merlot (44%), Shiraz (24%), Cabernet Sauvignon (2%).

Interesting to see that Shiraz is a component in every winner. Shiraz seems to complement Pinotage. I recall Warwick Estate added Shiraz to their Three Cape Ladies blend  years ago, and I remember Guy Webster of Stellenzicht telling me his 50/50 Pinotage/Shiraz blend being the best wine he'd made.


27 September 2013

Houdamond returns to M & S

I received more emails about my April WOTM Houdamond Pinotage 2009 than any other single brand, most asking where it could be purchased as their local store didn't have it.

Houdamond is  Bellevue Estate's 'Morkel' Pinotage with an exclusive label for Marks & Spencer and the 2009 sold out fast.

Now Houdamond has returned. I saw the 2010 vintage in my local M&S today. The M &S website also has it - although the website says it is the 2012 vintage which I think is unlikely and probably a mistake.

If you want it, dive in while you can.


19 September 2013

Delheim's Winemaker Reg Holder - Video

I’ve been drinking quite a bit of Delheim’s standard Pinotage 2010 which is currently stocked by The Wine Society.

So it was a pleasure to meet Delheim’s new winemaker, Reg Holder, for the first time at the Beautiful South wine fair in London last month and I asked Reg to tell me about the 2011 vintage that he was pouring.

I chose Delheim’s Barrel Selection 2007 for my July Wine ofthe Month. Reg told me that Barrel Selection – which used only to be available from the winery – is no more and that the equivalent Pinotage is now under the Vera Cruz label.

06 September 2013

Black Elephant Vintners

Black Elephant Vintners logo

2013 Pinotage Top 10 winner ‘Back Road’ 2012 Pinotage comes from a winery, Black Elephant Vintners, that I’d not previously heard of.  Not surprising since it only came into being in January 2013, founded by Franschhoek based financiers Kevin Swart and Raymond Ndlovu.

It’s a tremendous achievement for a brand new winery to leap into Pinotage stardom with their maiden vintage, but they do have the benefit of a winemaker with form.  

Winemaker/viticulturist is Jacques Wentzel, whom I met when he was cellar-master at Schalk Burger’s Welbedacht winery. While there Jacques crafted their 2009 Meerkat Pinotage which was a Top 10 winner in 2011.

Hand-picked grapes for The Back Roads Pinotage 2012 came from a single vineyard of old vine Pinotage growing in “Die Perskoen” ward of Wellington.  Uncrushed grapes with 15% whole bunches fermented spontaneously and aged for 15 months in used (5 - 8 year old) French oak barrels. Full details of the winemaking process and technical information is on the website www.bevintners.co.za which went live this week.

I look forward to tasting Black Elephant’s wines in the future, and congratulations again to Jacques and the Black Elephant team.


01 September 2013

Pinotage Top 10 2013 Winners

Winners of this years Pinotage Top 10 Competition are

Anura Pinotage Reserve 2011
The Back Roads Pinotage 2012
Diemersdal Pinotage 2012
L'Avenir Pinotage 2011
Lyngrove Platinum Pinotage 2012
Manley Pinotage 2011
Rijk's Reserve Pinotage 2009
Rooiberg Winery Pinotage Reserve 2012
Springfontein Jonathan's Ridge Pinotage 2010
Wildekrans Pinotage 2011

Back Road comes from a winery I've not previously encountered (or even heard of), Black Elephant Vintners in Franschhoek.

Congratulations to them and all the winners and runners up

Diemersdal Pinotage Reserve 2012
Fairview Primo Pinotage 2011
Kanonkop Pinotage 2010
Kanonkop Pinotage 2009
KWV The Mentors Pinotage 2011
Môreson Pinotage 2011
Simonsig Redhill Pinotage 2011
Wagenboom Pinotage 2010
Windmeul Pinotage Reserve 2012
Windmeul Pinotage 2011

The Pinotage Association says: Pinotage stalwarts L’Avenir in Stellenbosch and Tulbagh’s Rijk’s Private Cellar joined relative newcomers including Black Elephant Vintners from Franschhoek in the winning line-up for this year’s Absa Top 10 Pinotage Competition.

This year’s Absa Top 10 Trophy winners underscored the belief that excellent soils and climatic conditions for Pinotage are found throughout the Cape winelands. Besides L’Avenir, Stellenbosch produced winners in Lyngrove Wines’ Lyngrove Platinum Pinotage 2012, while Manley Pinotage 2011 from Manley Private Cellar also got the nod for Tulbagh. Franschhoek is represented by The Back Roads Pinotage 2012 from Black Elephant Vintners, with the Anura Pinotage Reserve 2011 sealing the Paarl slot.

Closer to the coast there is Springfontein Jonathan Ridge Pinotage 2010 from Stanford and Wildekrans Pinotage 2011 in the Botrivier area. Robertson’s Rooiberg Winery also takes a Top 10 with its Rooiberg Winery Pinotage Reserve 2012 and the Diemersdal Pinotage 2012 ensures that one of South Africa’s oldest wine-making areas, namely Durbanville, also makes the list of this year’s winners.

This year’s Absa Top 10 Pinotage Competition attracted 126 entries.

L’Avenir and Rijk’s Private Cellar cemented their status as two Pinotage wine icons by winning their eighth Absa Top 10 Pinotage Trophy. Since its launch in 1997 the Absa Top 10 Pinotage Competition has become South Africa’s leading showcase for the country’s own grape variety, and according to Beyers Truter, chairman of the Pinotage Association, for any cellar to win eight Absa Top 10 Trophies in 16 years is a monumental achievement.

 “Apart from having to impress a discerning panel of judges each year, the competition among cellars has increased in intensity over the years,” says Beyers. “For a winery such as L’Avenir to win an Absa Top 10 Trophy at the inaugural competition in 1997 and to still have what it takes to come out top in 2013, is an amazing achievement. It not only says a lot about the respective wine-making teams’ commitment to Pinotage and their understanding of the grape’s unique intricacies, but also speaks volumes of the importance of established terroir in the specific regions.”

L’Avenir won Top 10 Trophies in 1997, 1998, 2000, 2001, 2002, 2003 and 2004. Rijk’s Private Cellar in Tulbagh produced Trophy winners in 2001, 2003, 2004, 2008, 2010, 2011 and 2012 before reaching the magic number eight at this year’s Top 10 awards. The two cellars’ winning wines were the L’Avenir Pinotage 2011 and Rijk’s Reserve Pinotage 2009.

 "For 17 years now, Absa has been the driving force behind the Top 10 Pinotage competition, enticing wine makers every year to aim for one of the prestigious trophies. Our partnership with this competition reflects our long-standing commitment not only to the Pinotage Association but to the SA wine industry in general. This competition encourages the growth of this vibrant sector which has an enormous contribution to make in the economic landscape of our country," says Brienne van der Walt, Managing Executive: Absa AgriBusiness.

 Internationally-respected sommelier, restaurateur and author Guido Francque is one of the wine world’s most ardent admirers of South Africa’s Pinotage grape variety, and the Belgian says the quality of Pinotage wines are showing vast improvements as wine-makers and viticulturalists put their fingerprint on the cultivar.

Francque said the 126 entries from 80 producers was the most impressive line-up he had experienced in his years of judging the Top 10.

“I have been following Pinotage for over 20 years now, so have seen pretty much all that the South African wine-makers have employed in making your country’s signature wine variety in terms of extraction, wood-maturation and levels of ripeness,” says Francque.

“One thing that struck me about this year’s entries was the discernible classical structure among so many of the wines entered. Less American oak – an experiment which I think does not work so well with Pinotage – and a nurturing of the variety’s Pinot Noir and Burgundian character has led to some truly extraordinary wines.”

 According to Francque, a classic wine is both feminine and masculine. “It needs the feminine elegance and lightness, just as much as the masculine structure and back-bone must be present,” he says. “This is being found in more-and-more Pinotage wines as wine-makers achieve balance and integration.”

One of the striking features of this year’s ABSA Top 10 judging experience, he says, was the vintage variation among the wines. “The entries produced wines from 2007 to 2012, and experiencing such noticeable variation in the vintages was, for me, extremely exciting as it not only showed expressive character of Pinotage, but also vindicates my belief in South Africa as a wine country with true terroir that allows for such different expressions between vintages.”

This year’s judging for the Absa Top 10 took place at Nederburg. On the panel with Francque were: Duimpie Bayly, Chairman, Neil Pendock, Winnie Bowman, Chris Roux, Frans Smit and Debbie Thompson.


31 August 2013

WOTM - Pelican Ranch 2010 Pinotage

My Wine of the Month for August is this deliciously and plumply juicy single vineyard offering from Pelican Ranch, an artisan winery located near Santa Cruz in California.
Owner/winemaker Phil Crews is a professor of chemistry at UCSC’s Department of Chemistry and Biochemistry, a noted expert in marine sponges and teacher of classes on Wines and Wine Chemistry. Hence the nicely informative back label.

It looks to me that the grapes come from John Bree’s 5+ acre Pinotage vineyard at Sutter Ridge in Amador County, planted more than twenty years ago and thus some of the oldest in California.


23 August 2013

2013 Cape Blend Competition Finalists

Just announced are the ten finalists of the Perold ABSA Cape Blend Competition. Cape Blend rules requires minimum of 30% and maximum of 70% Pinotage in the blend.

2012 Anura LB Cape Cuveé
2011 Clos Malverne Spirit of Malverne
2011 Flagstone Dragon Tree
2011 KWV Abraham Perold Tributum
2011 Namaqua Cellar Door Pinotage/Malbec
2009 Sumaridge Epitome
2011 Viljoensdrift River Grandeur Cape Blend
2011 Warwick Three Cape Ladies
2010 Welbedacht Hat Trick
2012 Windmeul Cape Blend

The three winners and two runners-up will be announced on 20 September 2013.

This year's finalists KWV and Windmeul were winners last year with their 2010 Cape Blends.


10 August 2013

Pinotage Icewine - World First for Canada

Pinotage grapes have made many styles of wines including red, white and pink, sparkling, dessert and fortified.

Now comes a world first from Canada: Pinotage Icewine.

Stoneboat Vineyards, near Oliver in British Columbia’s southern Okanagen Valley, picked their frozen grapes on 11 January 2013 at minus 11 degrees Celsius (12.2F) and 39 Brix.

The resulting icewine, sold in a frosted half-sized bottles, is a lively pink colour with 8.3% abv and residual sugar of 230g/L, TA 12.3 g/L and pH 3.43.
Owner-winemaker Lanny Martiniuk says it “has intense aromas of fresh raspberry and candied apple. Subtle notes of dried cranberry and raisin are nicely balanced by spicy undertones on the palate. Cellar now through 2025”.

Stoneboat Pinotage Icewine 2012 is available at the winery for $74.90 CDN per 375ml bottle.

Congratulations to Stoneboat Vineyards!

See here for videos from my visit to Stoneboat


01 August 2013

Pinotage Top 10 2013 Finalists

Just released are the 20 finalists for the ABSA  Pinotage Top 10 Competition. The 10 winners will be announced at the end of this month

Producer Name
Anura Pinotage Reserve
Lyngrove Platinum Pinotage
Black Elephant
The Back Roads Pinotage
Diemersdal Pinotage
Diemersdal Pinotage Reserve
Primo Pinotage
Kanonkop Pinotage
Kanonkop Pinotage
KWV SA Pty Ltd
KWV The Mentors Pinotage
L'Avenir Pinotage
Manley Private Cellar
Manley Pinotage
Moreson Pinotage
Rijk's Cellars
Rijk's Reserve Pinotage
Rooiberg Winery
Rooiberg Winery Pinotage Reserve
Simonsig Landgoed
Simonsig Pinotage Redhill
Springfontein Wine Estate
Jonathan Ridge Pinotage
Walker Bay
Waboomsrivier Wynkelder
Edms Bpk
Wagenboom Pinotage
Wine Estate
Wildekrans Pinotage
Windmeul Kelder
Windmeul Pinotage Reserve
Windmeul Kelder
Windmeul Pinotage

Among the well known names and previous winners is a name new to me of which I know nothing, - Black Elephant Back Roads Pinotage. Also new to me is the Wine of Origin (WO)  'Kusstreek' which I cannot find on any WO list but according to Google translations  Kusstreek is Afrikaans for 'Coastal'.

Congratulations to all.