Getting to Know Pinotage

Words: Karen Glanfield

Wine 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.

Great South African Pinotages

Spier 2015 21 Gables Pinotage

Spier 21 Gables is a range of single varietal wines that represent both the conditions of each vintage and the nuance of terroir. The name pays tribute to the farm’s 300-year winemaking heritage and unique architectural legacy: an unrivalled 21 Cape Dutch Gables. One of the cornerstones of this range is the Pinotage, which is barrel-fermented and matured, and central to South Africa’s vineous history.

WINEMAKER Johan Jordaan
WO Stellenbosch
TASTING NOTES Flavours of caramelised black cherries, hints of dark spice and dark chocolate. The full palate’s smooth entry is followed by rich fruit and velvety tannins.
WE LOVE IT WITH Braaied Lamb Ribs (Soutribbetjies)

Beyerskloof Diesel Pinotage

In the heart of the Stellenbosch Winelands lies Beyerskloof. Offering an abundance of exquisite vines on the farm, Beyerskloof is renowned for its broad range of world-class wines. Backed by a wealth of experience, the farmers tend to the vineyards to harvest the best quality grapes with their richness in texture and colour.

WO Western Cape

A big structured Pinotage with intense dark fruit flavours. A deep middle leads to a smooth finish with pleasant chocolate/cedar aromas from the French oak. Great balance between fruit and oak will allow superb ageing in the bottle for 10 years and more. The ideal match to spicy Indian dishes or a well-matured rump/sirloin steak.

WE LOVE IT WITH Fillet Steak with Café au Lait Mushroom Sauce


Simonsvlei is a wine estate has a wealth of tradition and experience viticulture. Named after the legendary Simon van der Stel, Simonsvlei has ingrained its mark since the 17th Century. Upon such a foundation, Simonsvlei continues to innovate and propel the wine industry forward.

WO Western Cape
TASTING NOTES Ja-Mocha expresses overtones of dark chocolate and roasted coffee beans. It is a well-balanced dry red that is not overly fruity.
WE LOVE IT WITH Vegan Poppadoms with Spicy Vegetables With Crumbed Chicken-Style Nuggets

Winery of Good Hope Whole Brrry Pinotage 2018

Introducing the latest release from The Winery of Good Hope – this is not the usual tannic, over-ripe, over-the top alcohol Pinotage – this is Whole Berry Pinotage; smooth, succulent, juicy and delicious.

WINEMAKER A collaborative team effort.
WO Stellenbosch
TASTING NOTES On the nose, dark fruits of blackberry and black cherry. On the palate: rich and inviting with juicy dark fruits – black plum, blackberry, clove spice and a generous weight and silky, smooth finish.
WE LOVE IT WITH Cassoulet of Duck, Lamb and Chorizo

Kanonkop Pinotage 2015

Located on the slopes of Simonsberg, Kanonkop Estate is home to many of South Africa’s premium wines. The Estate’s unique name “Kanonkop” is derived from the word kopje, meaning hillock. In the 17th Century, a cannon was commonly fired from here to warn farmers of foreign sailing ships arriving in Cape Town.

WINEMAKER Abrie Beeslaar
WO Stellenbosch
TASTING NOTES Deep intense ruby red colour. A bold intensity of plum, red berries and dark chocolate.
WE LOVE IT WITH Asian Pork Belly Kebabs with Sticky Plum Sauce

Meerendal Heritage Block Pinotage 2006

Meerendal Wine Estate has been around for over 300 years and was pioneered by the owner’s widow Christina Stans in 1714. Today, the Estate is flourishing with wine tastings overlooking the Boland or held in the cellar, is home to the quaint Carlucci’s Deli and visitors can dine out at the regal Crown Restaurant and Wine Bar.

WINEMAKER Liza Goodwin
WO Durbanville
TASTING NOTES Deep purple in colour with a strong scent of bramble, the Meerendal Heritage Block Pinotage is a classic. It boasts combinations of plum, prune, oak and a tannin undertone.
WE LOVE IT WITH Beef Neck with Mushroom, Potato Ragout Caper Purée


DeWaal Top of the Hill Pinotage 2015

DeWaal Wine Estate is home to the oldest Pinotage vines in the country and their quality in wine is only a testament to this. The grapes are rich in colour, juicy and delicious in taste, producing eloquent wines. DeWaal’s mature vineyards are nestled in the Stellenbosch Kloof valley and has been in the family since 1864.

WINEMAKER Daniel de Waal
WO Stellenbosch
TASTING NOTES Dark red wine with an even concentration and texture. Its lingering taste on the palate is reminiscent of a stark black fruit.
WE LOVE IT WITH Venison Wellington with Exotic Mushroom Sauce

Lanzerac Pinotage 2015

Lanzerac Wine Estate is part of a bold legacy – it is home to the world’s first bottled Pinotage. The wine farm dates back to as far as 1692 and is one of the oldest in the Western Cape. Now, the Estate’s 5 Star Hotel and luxurious Spa can be enjoyed, with the venue also offering up their space for functions.

WINEMAKER Wynand Lategan
WO Stellenbosch
TASTING NOTES Three words – juicy, succulent and smooth. This Pinotage offers smoky-soft top notes mixed with black plums and cherries. The tannins contribute to a spicy, meaty characteristic that sets the Lanzerac Pinotage 2015 apart from the rest.
WE LOVE IT WITH Rare Roast Beef with Red Wine Cranberry Sauce

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