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.


24 May 2017

Earth’s Essence Pinotage 2015

Earth’s Essence Pinotage 2015, Western Cape

I’ve been wanting for some time to try Earth’s Essence, a Pinotage wine that uses two South African indigenous woods -- Rooibos (Fabaceae family species, Asplathus) and Honeybush (Cyclopia)
-- to provide necessary anti-bacteriological and preservative qualities and thus avoids adding sulphur. Although sulphur has been used in winemaking since antiquity, the fairly recent addition of allergy warnings to wine labels some consumers now blame sulphites for any negative reactions experienced after drinking wine. 

For all its supposed health benefits I unfortunately did not like the wine. On the positive side it was creamy with a touch of pencil shavings, but I found it lifeless, without enough fruit flavours, and I wouldn’t have guessed it was Pinotage if tasted blind. It had a streak of acidity, and a strange aftertaste I found unpleasant. Did those odd tastes come from Rooibois and Honeybush wood? I don’t know what Honeybush nor Rooibois wood tastes like and although  I once had rooibois tea it was a long time ago and once was enough.

This was the first bottle of Pinotage, for as long as we can recall, that we didn’t finish.

s Essence is made by KWV, there’s a fact sheet for the 2014 vintage describing their patented use of native woods on their dedicated Earth’s Essence website - http://earthsessence.co.za


17 May 2017

Pinotage Top 10 2017 is Open for Entries

It's that time again. The 2017 annual ABSA Pinotage Top 10 Competition is open for entries.

This is the timetable:

Closing date for entries:                       Wednesday 31 May 2017  at 16:00
Closing date for late entries:                Friday 9 June 2017 at 12:00
Samples to be delivered:        Monday 12 and Tuesday 13 July 2017
Awards Function:                                3 August 2017

Note that this is an international competition: non-South African producers can -- and I say -- should enter. 

Competition information here  

Entry Form here 

30 April 2017

WotM Kaapzicht Steytler Vision 2012

My Wine of the Month for April is Kaapzicht Estate
Steytler Vision 2012 which is a new addition to the list at my favourite London restaurant.  

Vision’ is a Cape Blend. The 2012 is 55% Cabernet Sauvignon, 35% Pinotage, 10% Merlot (according to the website, no percentages shown on the label) vinified and aged separately in small French oak barrels for 28 months before  blending together

The Steytler label is reserved for Kaapzichts top wines, barrel selected by owner winemaker Danie Steytler, and now by son Danie Junior, fourth generation winemaker.

Kaapzicht - literally Cape Sight - takes its name from the views of Cape Town harbour and  Table Mountain that can be seen when you climb to the top of their vineyards. 

This wine is  deliciously full bodied, silky smooth and with a core of  sweet Pinotage fruit. Its a magic blend, where the sum of the parts is greater than the component parts.  

Nice quirky touch is the bar code rendered as an outline of Table Mountain, whose image has appeared on Kaapzichts labels through  various designs over the years I've been buying them.


19 April 2017

Ontario Joins Pinotage Family

Del Gatto Estates in Prince Edward County, Ontario, Canada made their first Pinotage vintage in 2014.
Pasquale (Pat) Del-Gatto is a fourth generation winemaker of Italian heritage, and with his family bought the 74 acre property in 2001. He researched potential vineyard locations in British Columbia, California and the Niagara region before choosing Prince Edward County as it compares in latitude and longitude to European wine regions. 

The estate is roughly 140 miles (225 km) east of Toronto on the shores of Lake Ontario.

The Del Gatto family started planting vines in 2002 and  now have 8 acres planted with nine hybrid varieties plus  Pinotage. 

They produce  small case lots of exclusive, premium quality white, rosé and red wines from their disease resistant and cold hardy vineyard, as well as an aged fortified port-style wine.
Pat Del-Gatto, Owner Winemaker
Pat Del-Gatto told me “We have about an acre of Pinotage, planted in 2011, in Waupoos clay loam soil, one of the more rare soil profiles in Prince Edward County.”

I asked Pat why he chose Pinotage. “About 30 years ago I was in
California,” he said, “and came across a Pinotage wine event presented by South African producers’ first launch in North America. I was so taken by the characteristics of the wine that it became a pursuit. 

When I started my vineyard/winery in 2002, I promised myself that I would find this vine and plant it. Finally in 2010 I sourced the bud wood and had a nursery make me young vines.

“They survive well in our climate but we do bury the vines in the fall and unbury in spring. This year we have no bud loss (though winter was somewhat mild). The yield is amazing and the skin is considerably tougher than Pinot and very little disease pressure.”

In the 2016 vintage, not yet released, they produced two barrels. The 2015 vintage is sold out.
Del Gatto Estates brings the number of Pinotage estates in Canada, that I am aware of, to four; the other three are in British Columbia on the West Coast.

Images courtesy of Del-Gatto Estates