14 July 2017

2017 Pinotage Top 10 Finalists

This year sees the 21st Absa Top 10 Pinotage Competition, and in recognition of the anniversary there are 21 finalists from which the winning Top 10 will be selected.

The 21 wines being considered for Absa Top 10 Pinotage status this year are:

Beyerskloof Pinotage Reserve 2015 – WO Stellenbosch, Winemaker Anri Truter
Bon Courage Pinotage 2015 – WO Robertson, Winemakers Jacques Bruwer & Philip Viljoen
Delheim Pinotage 2012 – WO Stellenbosch, Winemaker Altus Treurnicht
Delheim Vera Cruz Pinotage 2014 – WO Simonsberg-Stellenbosch, Winemaker Altus Treurnicht
Diemersfontein Carpe Diem Reserve 2015 – WO Wellington, Winemaker Francoise Roode
Flagstone Writer's Block Single Vineyard Pinotage 2015, WO Breedekloof, Winemaker Gerhard Swart
Kanonkop Pinotage 2012 – WO Simonsberg-Stellenbosch, Winemaker Abrie Beeslaar
Lanzerac Pionier Pinotage 2014 – WO Jonkershoek Valley in Stellenbosch, Winemaker Wynand Lategan
Lanzerac Pionier Pinotage 2015 – WO Jonkershoek Valley in Stellenbosch, Winemaker Wynand Lategan
Marianne Pinotage 2015 – WO Simonsberg-Paarl, Winemaker Jos van Wyk
Môreson MKM 2015 – Franschhoek Cellar, WO Stellenbosch, Winemaker Clayton Reabow
Môreson The Widow Maker Pinotage 2015 – Franschhoek Cellar, WO Stellenbosch, Winemaker Clayton Reabow
Neethlingshof The Short Story Collection The Owl Post Pinotage 2015 – WO Stellenbosch, Winemaker De Wet Viljoen
Neil Ellis Bottelary Hills Pinotage 2015 – WO Stellenbosch, Winemaker Warren Ellis
Neil Ellis Pinotage 2015 – WO Stellenbosch, Winemaker Warren Ellis
Rickety Bridge Pinotage 2015 – Franschhoek Cellar, WO Coastal, Winemaker Wynand Grobler
Stellenbosch Vineyards Bushvine Pinotage 2015 – WO Stellenbosch, Winemaker Abraham de Villiers
La Cave Pinotage 2016 – Wellington Wines, Winemakers Francois van Niekerk & Chris Smit
La Cave Pinotage 2015 – Wellington Wines, Winemakers Francois van Niekerk & Chris Smit
Windmeul Pinotage Reserve 2015 – WO Paarl/Coastal, Winemaker Abraham van Heerden
Windmeul Pinotage 2015 –WO Coastal, Winemaker Abraham van Heerden

The winning Top 10 wines for 2017 will be announced on 3 August at   an award ceremony at Cavalli Estate, Somerset West.

Congratulations to all.

30 June 2017

WoTM Spioenkop 1900 Pinotage 2012

My Wine of The Month for June is Spioenkop ‘1900’ Pinotage 2012.

At a tasting of premium Pinotages I recently presented, one of the attendees told me afterwards that he’d come to get an ‘understanding of what Pinotage is’, and he said he was leaving feeling just as confused as when he came. 

One of the delights of the variety is that there is no old-world region producing a template in the way there is for Pinot or Cabernet/Merlot etc, and so Pinotage can – and is – interpreted in many different ways. 

My seeker after the essence of Pinotage would have left even more confused had he been poured Spioenkop ‘1900’ Pinotage 2012.

This was a Platter 5 Star wine in the 2014 Guide, praised as “Pinotage re-imagined”.

With just 12.5% abv it feels light bodied, there’s a distinct perfume of violets on the nose with layers of sweet fruit on top with a short finish. It’s restrained, more Fleurie Beaujolais than Stellenbosch Pinotage. It’s agreeable with raspberry flavours, and although a nice wine I doubt it’d be identified as Pinotage in a blind tasting. Which would be an attraction to many, but, interesting as it is, it’s not my preferred style.

The ‘latest’ vintages listed on Spioenkop’s website are from the 2011 vintage, so there’s no information about this wine. Spioenkop’s ‘1900’ label is used for wines made from grapes source from outside winery’s Elgin location and refers to the year of a victory at Spionkop in Natal by the Afrikaners in the war with the British. 

05 June 2017

NEWTS Premium Pinotage Tasting

To North Ealing on Friday 2 June to present a tasting of premium Pinotages to the NEWTS, which is the delightful acronym of North Ealing Wine Tasting Society.

We started with a double pour of Beyerskloof Pinotage 2015 to synchronise palates, before the main feature, which were:

Springfontein Estate
Daredevils’ Drums
Blushes Inverse
Blanc de Pinotage 2015 
Estate Wine of Origin Walker Bay

David & Nadia Wines
Pinotage 2015
Wine of Origin Swartland

Pinotage  2012
Wine of Origin Citrusdal Mountain

Loma Prieta
Amarosa Vineyard
Pinotage 2010
AVA Lodi (California)

Wine of Origin Hemel-in-Aarde Valley
 (Pinotage 86% Cabernet Sauvignon, Franc, Malbec & Petite Verdot each 3.5%)

L’Avenir Estate
Single Block 02
Pinotage 2014
Single Vineyard  Estate Wine of Origin Stellenbosch

Pinotage 2013
Wine of Origin Stellenbosch

Kanonkop Estate
Pinotage 2005
Estate Wine of Origin Simonsberg-Stellenbosch

Averaging out scoring at the end of the evening showed the Kanonkop came top, just above Beeslaar and Loma Prieta which tied, then L’Avenir.

The white Pinotage, which as its name Blushes Inverse suggested, was faintly pink, had been made in an oxidative style had its fans but they were outnumbered.

Andrew Price and Peter May at NEWTS

Thanks to Andrew Price for organising the tasting for NEWTS, and for the photographs which you can ‘like’ on Andrew’s Instagram site here



02 June 2017

Grangehurst Pinotage 2007

.At the London Wine Fair I met two old friends, South African based international wine judge Yegas Naidoo and  Rainer Koos
Rianer Koos, Peter May, Yegas Naidoo

Yegas was paying a brief visit to the show before flying to Quebec that evening to judge at a wine competition.
Rainer  represents several wineries, including Grangehurst and he poured me a glass of Grangehurst 2007 Pinotage. 

I didn’t expect to find a ten year old wine being promoted at the show but was told it was the current release. 

“Jeremy only releases his wines when they are mature,” Koos told me. Jeremy Walker is owner-winemaker of Grangehurst where the mantra is Handcrafted, Traditional Unhurried.

This isn’t 100% Pinotage, there’s a small amount of Cabernet Sauvignon, which Jeremy says ‘provides an interesting dimension of fruit, tannin and additional acidity, which contribute to the complexity and balance.’

The recipe is a serendipitous discovery made when Jeremy’s maiden Pinotage harvest in 1992  didn’t produce enough fruit to fill the tank so 8% of Cabernet was added.

This 2007 vintage was pressed in traditional basket presses and aged 20 months  in new barrels, 94% French and 6% American.

The wine was showing its age, already browning in colour, with aged subtle fruits thining and delivering intense Pinotage sweetness.

It was ten years ago that I visited Grangehurst (how time flies by) where Jeremy told me the restaurants he supplies likes aged wine and he crafts wines to accompany food. 

Tasting was good but I’d like to have this with dinner…

31 May 2017

WoTM - Diemersdal Pinotage Reserve 2014

My Wine of the Month for May is Diemersdal Pinotage Reserve 2014.

Diemersdal Estate in Durbanville, north of Cape Town, has been making wine for more than 300 years. Current owners, the Louw family, have been farming there for six generations  since 1855. Durbanville’s hills and proximity to cold sea breezes make it a prime site for steely Sauvignon Blanc and cool-climate Pinotage.

Diemersdal Estate makes expressive, impressive Pinotage. This 2014 Reserve (they also make a non-reserve) was a Pinotage Top 10 winner in 2015, and is drinking beautifully now and would probably benefit from longer aging.

On the nose are lovely black forest fruits. It is very dark.In the mouth there's a tautness at first soon followed by an explosion of cherry, cassis and vanilla flavours that coat the palate. There’s a long sweet silky finish. Delicious.

26 May 2017

Wonderful Windmeul Pinotage at London Wine Fair

To London for the annual London Wine Fair. It’s much shrunk and they’ve dropped ‘International’ from the name. The vast national pavilions are no more and producers mostly share stands with their UK agents.

I was pleased to see Marius Burger on the Windmeul Winery booth, but sad that the stand was in the area for  producers looking for UK agents. Windmeul make some cracking Pinotages; their Reserve has been a winner in many Top 10 Competitions and also been garlanded with Five Platter Stars. 

Roodekrantz is a label for a wine designed to appeal to the commercial Asian market by being ‘palate friendly and accessible, with less oak and more residual sugar’. The name refers to the label’s red laurel victor's wreath.


 Roodekrantz Pinotage 2015, sealed with a screwcap, is a pale light bodied red, soft fruity and easy to drink on its own.

The standard Windmeul Pinotage 2015 has spent more time – 9 months – in 2nd and 3rd fill barrels. This comes from a bush-vine vineyard planted in 1996 (pictured below). It has a deeper colour, is more complex and enjoyable, with food friendly tannins giving a dry finish.
Windmeul's Pinotage Vineyard. Photo courtesy Marius Burger

Windmeul Pinotage Reserve 2014 was a Pinotage Top 10 Winner in 2015 and 5 Star Platter winner in 2016. 

“2014 wasn’t such a good year,” Marius told me, “but the Pinotage had ripened and was picked before we had the heavy rains in March.” 

This wine was aged in new French oak barrels and came from the same vineyard block as the standard bottling, but vines destined for the Reserve  undergo crop thinning and selection. This darker, interesting wine gave an initial rush of sweet Pinotage fruit, dark plum and fynbosch herby flavours on top of rewarding complexity. It is a truly beautiful wine that Platter rightly states is benchmark Pinotage.

Marius said the following year they made the 2015 Reserve in a different style, intended for aging and thus was not readily accessible when young, but it is now starting to ‘come round’.

Also tasted was a tank sample of a 100% Pinotage Rosé under the ‘Mill’ label, which was light and refreshing,

Windmeul, Marius told me, should be pronounced Vint-meel.

I do hope Windemeul soon find a UK distributer as it’s far too long since I’ve enjoyed a bottle with dinner; my recent attempts to buy the Reserve on my visits to the Cape have failed as it has been completely sold out.