Getting to Know Pinotage

Words: Karen Glanfield

Getting to know PinotageWine Concepts LB 728 x 90Pinotage is the real McCoy South African grape. It has had its trials and tribulations but is being well supported locally and has seen a large increase in plantings over the past couple of years. Being lucky enough to have sat on the Pinotage Blends (red blends with a minimum of 30% Pinotage) judging panel for 3 years, I have a soft spot for this grape and a strong belief in its future!

When Professor Abraham Perold, from Stellenbosch University, crossed a somewhat unusual pair, Pinot Noir with Cinsaut in 1925, he literally created South Africa’s national grape.

His aim was to combine the virtues of the two grapes. Pinot Noir is renowned for its aromas and flavours, but can be difficult to grow, whereas Cinsault yields an abundant crop and is cheerfully resistant to disease. It appears Cinsault dominated as Pinotage is easy to grow and ripens readily. In fact, keeping yields down is a major challenge in making a quality wine from Pinotage.

A typical slow starter it only appeared commercially in the early 1960s and attracted international interest in 1991 when the winemaker, Beyers Truter, entered a Pinotage in the International Wine and Spirit Competition. He was named “Winemaker of the Year”, the first South African to ever be bestowed this honour.

Pinotage can be presented in a dramatic range of styles, ranging from a fairly light-bodied, red berry driven wine all the way to a full-bodied wine with balance, elegance, fully developed fruit flavours and an enduring finish.

In general, Pinotage tends to take on a rustic profile and often shows earth-driven notes, followed by dark fruit, red liquorice, rooibos, banana, dried leaves, sweet pipe tobacco, chocolate or even smokey bacon kips. The best will age into elegance without losing their muscularity. Most recently there has been a new development in the heavier mocha, chocolate style Pinotage which has woven its magical spell and brought a range of new consumers into the wine drinking market.

Food pairings range quite significantly. From robust and rustic dishes like smoked duck, pulled pork, chilli con carne or potjie to light charcuterie, patés, and baked pasta dishes like lasagne or pizza, particularly one with a meaty topping. Its slight perceived sweetness also makes it a good match for hard cheeses like cheddar or blue but it shines brightest with a classic South African braai!

3 facts you should know about Pinotage

  • The inaugural meeting of the Pinotage Association was held in Paarl on 23rd November 1995. The aim is to protect and grow the awareness of this unique grape cultivar.
  • This red grape has inspired winemakers to be daring and come up with interesting wine spin-off styles. In particular, Mellasat Vineyards has created the world’s very first white Pinotage while KWV’s Café Culture has added coffee Pinotage bubbly to their range.
  • Pinotage has its very own day to celebrate just how awesome it is: International Pinotage Day.

A Selection of Great South African Pinotage

Spier – 21 Gables Pinotage 2014

Spier is one of the oldest wine farms in South Africa with a recorded history dating back to 1692. While rooted in this heritage, the Spier of today has a vibrant and conscious energy. Award-winning wine can be paired with fabulous food, grown either on the farm or by nearby farmers. The winery is one of the most awarded in the country and the spier hotel and meeting facilities offer inspiring Wineland’s getaways in the tranquility of nature.

WINEMAKER Johan Jordaan
WO Stellenbosch
TASTING NOTES On the nose aromas of crushed violets, pursued by caramelised black cherries, fennel and allspice – coriander seeds, cloves, cinnamon – with a block of dark chocolate last. On the palate, flavours of caramelised black cherries, hints of dark spice and dark chocolate, with velvety tannins that balance the wine for a rewarding experience.
WE LOVE IT WITH Risotto Nero with Sauteed Squid

Boschendal Sommelier Pinotage

The grapes were handpicked and sorted then crushed and fermented in open top, stainless steel tanks. Manual punch downs were conducted (of the skins) to ensure a fine tannin and colour extraction. After fermentation, the wine was pressed and half stored in stainless steel tanks and the other half in older barrels for maturation. 2015 was one of the best vintages the farm has had in South Africa. Early, ripe and cool with beautiful berry set. A classic vintage.

WINEMAKER Richard Duckitt
WO Franschhoek
TASTING NOTES Rich, ripe and vibrant red and black currants, spice and plums. A classic example of South Africa’s very own grape varietal.
WE LOVE IT WITH Pepper Crusted Fillet
PRICE R110 |

KWVClassic Collection Pinotage 2015

Since their inception in 1918, the proud pioneers of KWV have produced the finest quality vintage wines. The company prides itself on the quality of its wines, sourced from the finest quality grapes available. KWV Wines are and always have been crafted with extraordinary skill and dedication. Since the earliest aspiring wine makers to the modern generation of wine masters, KWV wines encompass not only craft but recognition of that craft too.

WO Western Cape
TASTING NOTES Aromas of red cherry, plums and fruit cake with hints of chocolate and pomegranate on the palate.
WE LOVE IT WITH Springbok Loin with Turnip and Cashew Nut Purée

 Beaumont Pinotage 2014

Pinotage was the very first wine made at Beaumont Wines and 23 years they are still producing it some 23 years later. 80% of the fruit comes from their 42-year old vines that provide dryness and structure. while the younger vines provide vibrant fruit.

WINEMAKER Sebastian Beaumont
WO Bot Rivier
TASTING NOTES This is still an elegant style of Pinotage with red berry and ripe fruit flavours.
WE LOVE IT WITH Fruity Lamb Curry

Diemersfontein Carpe Diem Reserve 2015

Diemersfontein has belonged to the Sonnenberg family for 3 generations, dating back to the early 1940s. The 183-hectare farm lies in the shadow of the Hawekwa Mountains and boasts a panoramic view of both Du Toit’s Kloof and Bains’ Kloof mountain ranges. Diemersfontein is known as one of the champions of Pinotage in SA and hosts the annual Pinotage on Tap festival.

WINEMAKER Francois Roode
WO Wellington
TASTING NOTES Flavours of raspberries, cherries and pencil shavings on the nose, followed with rich fruit flavours of plum and berries rounding it all off with supple tannins on the palate.
WE LOVE IT WITH Bobotie with Minted Yoghurt

Chamonix The Greywacke Pinotage 2014

Chamonix Wine Farm once formed part of the historic Huguenot Estate, La Cotte, which dates back to 1688. Today, Chamonix is known for its wonderful setting in the Franschhoek valley, with a wine tasting facility ‘The Blacksmith’s Cottage’  tucked into the mountainside.

WINEMAKER Thinius Neethling
WO Franschhoek
TASTING NOTES Greywacke Pinotage has a deep garnet red colour with tinges of dark violet when young. Aromas of wild berries, spice and cherries on the nose. On the palate, the wine shows full body and rich dark chocolate, with fruit flavours balanced elegantly by tannins in a long finish that reveals a sweetness reminiscent of liquorice.
WE LOVE IT WITH Seared Ostrich Carpaccio

Môreson The Widowmaker Pinotage

Môreson Pinotage is a rich, heavy red wine. It is also considered one of the Top 10 Pinotage wines in South Africa. You can expect a bold-on-fruit wine with well-integrated plum and oak tannins. The Môreson Pinotage is smooth and elegant on the palate with a slight mocha bouquet.

WINEMAKER Clayton Reabow
WO Franschhoek
TASTING NOTES Dried prunes, wild cherries, as well as a blend of clove and cinnamon
WE LOVE IT WITH Cumin and Cinnamon Spiced Chocolate Truffles

L’Avenir Single Block Pinotage 2014

L’Avenir focuses on two wine cultivars inherent to South Africa’s winemaking history – namely Chenin Blanc and Pinotage. Over the years they have scooped countless awards for their Pinotage and this has firmly cemented them as one of SA’s top producers for this varietal.

WINEMAKER Dirk Coetzee
WO Stellenbosch
TASTING NOTES Ripe black cherries, plums, spice and chocolate are predominant on the nose, mixed with floral notes and traces of tobacco. Rich plummy fruit and complex oak flavours linger in the mouth, ending with ample soft tannins. Will mature well over the next decade.
WE LOVE IT WITH Roast Rib Eye with Bone Marrow

Increase your wine knowledge and get to know  Red and White Blends | Shiraz | Chardonnay | Chenin Blanc | Cabernet Sauvignon | Merlot

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