30 May 2014

Pinotage Retrospective 1966 - 2012

Wines of South Africa held a tasting yesterday focusing on Chenin and Pinotage. Greg Sherwood MW tutored us on nine excellent Chenins before handing over to  Gavin Patterson who is the winemaker at, and director of, Sumaridge Wines in Walker Bay.
Gavin Patterson

Gavin told us he first planted Pinotage 25 years ago in his native Zimbabwe and his 1994 vintage was voted best wine at a tasting in South Africa attended by Beyers Truter. He said that when training as a winemaker he was taught that the taste profile of Pinotage then was acetone, prunes and leather. Overextraction doesn’t suit Pinotage, and winemakers are now making very different Pinotages. It is a variety, says Gavin, that is very stable in barrel and very ageworthy. We were about to prove that second statement.

The wines:
1.       Diemersdal Pinotage, 1998
ABV: 13.6%
Blend: 100% Pinotage
Region: Durbanville
Winemaker: Thys Louw
From 22 year old (in 1998) dry-farmed vines. Served from a decanter this was dry and dusty, still tight, but full bodied and dark fruited.

2.       Kanonkop Pinotage, 1999
ABV: 13.5%
Blend: 100% Pinotage
Region: Simonsberg – Stellenbosch
Winemaker: Beyers Truter

 From bush vines then 54 years old, this was gorgeously soft with sweet fruit. I loved this when I first tasted it in 2000 and every subsequent time it has just got better and better.

3.       Kanonkop Pinotage, 2003
ABV: 14.5%
Blend: 100% Pinotage
Region: Simonsberg – Stellenbosch
Winemaker: Abrie Beeslar

Change of winemaker and the vines are four years older, this is silky and spicy but maybe a bit less voluptuous than the 99 it's a crackingly enjoyable wine.

4.       Simonsig Pinotage, 2003
ABV: 14.8%
Blend: 100% Pinotage
Region: Stellenbosch
Winemaker: Johan Malan

A surprise for me because this is Simonsig’s unwooded Pinotage, though some tasters thought it had seen oak. It is a beautiful wine; soft, sweet raspberry and berry fruits. An elegant wine.

5.       Beyerskloof Pinotage Reserve, 2006
ABV: 14.6%
Blend: 100% Pinotage
Region: Stellenbosch
Winemaker: Anri Truter

A wine I have bought a lot of. Mellowing now, light bodied, sweet and elegant with a long finish. Almost a feminine wine, if one can believe that of Pinotage. 
6.       Neethlingshof Pinotage, 2006
ABV: 14.4%
Blend: 100% Pinotage
Region: Stellenbosch
Winemaker: De Wet Viljoen
Feremnted in rototanks with 14 months aging in 43% new French (80%) and American (20%) oak barrels.
A chunky wine with grainy tannins and chewy fruit. Very much a masculine Pinotage to contrast with the previous.

7.       L’Avenir Pinotage, 2011
ABV: 14%
Blend: 100% Pinotage
Region: Stellenbosch
Winemaker: Dirk Coetzee

Clean fresh spicy fruit; well integrated oak tannins, delicious.

8.       Altydgedacht  Pinotage, 2011
ABV: 14.7%
Blend: 100% Pinotage
Region: Durbanville
Winemaker: Etienne Louw

Four days cold soak to encourage gentle extraction of fruit flavours then fermented in closed tanks with pump-over. Aged 14 months in 40% new American (80%) and French (20%) oak barrels for 10 months.
Clean, refreshing and very elegant. Minerally with spicy black cherry fruits. Lovely wine.

9.       Lyngrove Platinum Pinotage, 2012
ABV: 14.5%
Blend: 100% Pinotage
Region: Stellenbosch
Winemaker: Danielle le Roux

 Barrel selection, cold soaked and aged 15 months in 40% new French oak barrels. Deliciously silky smooth with a tangy finish.

10.     Sumaridge Epitome, 2009
ABV: 14.1%
Blend: 57% Shiraz, 43% Pinotage
Region: Walker Bay
Winemaker: Gavin Patterson

 This is Gavin’s own wine. Sumaridge don’t  nowcmake a Pinotage varietal. This Cape blend was a winner in the 2013 Cape Blend competition and as part of his prize Gavin is soon heading off to visit winemakers in Portugal’s Douro where he is intending exploring their indigenous varieties.

Barrel selection, aged 12 months in 50% ch oak  500L and 225L barrels. “I’m making a Cape blend with a Rhone element – the Shiraz brings its pepperyness to the blend.”
Powerful tasting wine, but quite restrained flavours as if the two strong tasting varieties cancelled each other out.

Then came a surprise. Two old wines, Meerendal 1982 and Stellenbosch Farmers Winery ‘Lanzerac’ 1966…..

Meerendal 1982 tasted meaty and of forest floor, like dried meats on a bed of mushrooms.

SFW ‘Lanzerac’ 1966. This is only the seventh ever vintage of a Pinotage varietal, the first ever commercial bottling being the 1959 vintage released under the Lanzerac brand in 1961. They were intended for immediate drinking, not for keeping. The cork in this bottle had guarded its contents for almost half a century and did not want to surrender its contents, but finally it was defeated and the wine poured into a decanter and served. A light brown colour, this 48 year old wine was surprisingly fresh, with fine sweet berry fruits and a good body. It was quite delicious. 

Thanks to WoSA, the Pinotage Association for supplying the wines, Gavin Patterson for telling us about them and High Timber South African restaurant on the banks of the Thames for hosting the tasting and making us so very welcome.

 I learned that when dining at High Timber one doesn’t choose wine from a list; instead you descend to their cellar to choose from 32,000 mostly South African bottles including an exclusive bottling of the FMC Chenin. FMC is their best selling RSA white (Chateau d’Yquem is their best selling French wine!) while Newton Johnson Pinot Noir is their best selling RSA red wine.



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