There has never been a better time for white wine lovers to cross over to the darker side as South Africa’s signature wine; Pinotage is at its best.
While Pinotage is generally loaded with black fruit flavours such as blackberry, younger wines can showcase lovely nuances of raspberry. On the other hand, wines produced from older vines are extraordinarily rich, spicy and savoury in flavour, resulting in a complex bouquet of tobacco, leather and swishes of liquorice. With an earthiness on the nose and dark berry flavours on the palate, Pinotage is as authentically South African as biltong and koeksisters.
Pinotage is generally quite full-bodied with light to medium tannins and intense flavours. Acidity levels hovering on the lower side makes for an all-around easy to drink wine. The deeply coloured Pinotage grapes ripen easily and early in South Africa and are often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot to create a lovely Cape Blend.
Somewhat exclusive to South Africa and suited to the hot climate and dry terrain, Pinotage is a unique, man-made grape variety that was created to produce a hybrid variety holding the best qualities of Pinot Noir and Cinsaut. In 1925, Stellenbosch University’s first Professor of Viticulture, Abraham Izak Perold literally brushed a flower of Pinot Noir against a flower of Cinsaut and created a cross-pollinated variant of both grapes. Being partial to a glass of Pinot Noir, Perold wanted to combine the elegance of Pinot Noir with the spiciness of Cinsaut. The result was a new and exciting world first, exploding with proudly South African fruity flavours.
However, Perold’s creation narrowly escaped oblivion when he left the university to take up a position with KWV co-operative in 1928. Perold had planted the four seeds from his cross in the garden of his official residence at Welgevallen Experimental Farm and appeared to have forgotten about them. The garden had become overgrown and the university sent a team to clean it up. Fortunately, a young lecturer named Charlie Niehaus happened to walk past at that exact moment and he rescued them from the clean-up team’s shovels and spades.
Did you know that Lanzerac produced the first commercially bottled Pinotage in 1959? Mzanzi’s signature grape is the second most planted grape in South Africa (only small batches grown in Australia) and local winemakers take pride in the characteristics and flavours of Pinotage that express where it comes from. The big black fruit flavours, liquorice and savoury nuances are unique to the geography of the wine regions they come from.
It has been said that the first duty of wine is to be red. Yet, Pinotage grapes also make magnificent rosé wines that are completely crisp, lightly floral and fruity, but with a mineral or even earthy backbone that keeps the wine grounded and complex.
When it comes to ageing potential, Pinotage has the ability to last in the bottle for decades, but should ideally not be allowed to outlive its owner. Although it has some cases improved with age and developed secondary aromas and flavours that aged wines are known for, aged Pinotage cannot be compared to even the lesser quality of aged Burgundies or Bordeaux.
Pinotage and food
Good Pinotage is said to go well with most good food. That said you have to consider the weight of the dish when looking at pairing food with Pinotage. As a fairly full-bodied wine, it is best paired with rich, meaty dishes that will complement the wine’s texture. These include venison, duck, barbecued meat, oxtail and hearty stews, while a strong goat’s cheese is a must-have on the cheese platter.
Chocoholics will be delighted to know that a full-bodied Pinotage is often associated with chocolate flavours and a sparkling Pinotage pairs beautifully with chocolate pancakes and dark chocolate truffles.
Pinotage and your health
Good health and good wines are not mutually exclusive. The secret to indulging in both is like the old saying goes, everything in moderation. Studies have found that moderate consumption of red wine could be beneficial to your health as it contains high concentrations of resveratrol, an antioxidant that can reduce the risk of cancer and heart disease – Na Zdorovie!
Award winning Pinotage
These magnificent health benefits can be obtained from any red wine such as Syrah, Merlot, Cabernet Sauvignon and Malbec. However, if you, like us, are a patriotic South African and take pleasure in defying the absolutism of the conventional, then we undoubtedly recommend our country’s signature wine, Pinotage.
Trying a new wine can be a daunting task, especially when it comes to choosing from the vast variety available on the shelves. To help you make the right choice in Pinotage to stock the wine cooler with for this year’s Christmas lunch table, we bring you the 2021 Absa Top 10 Pinotage competition winners together with the 2021 Perold Absa Cape Blend Winners and the 2021 Pinotage Rosé Winners:
Absa Top 10 Pinotage winners
Beeslaar Pinotage 2018 – WO: Stellenbosch, Winemaker: Abrie Beeslaar
Beyerskloof Diesel Pinotage 2018 – WO: Stellenbosch, Winemaker: Anri Truter
Diemersdal The Journal Pinotage 2019 – WO: Durbanville, Winemaker: Thys Louw
Flagstone Writer’s Block Pinotage 2018 – WO: Breedekloof, Winemaker: Gerhard Swart
Francois van Niekerk Pinotage 2019 – WO Coastal, Winemaker: Francois van Niekerk
Stellenbosch 1679 Pinotage 2019 – WO Stellenbosch, Winemaker: Nicolas Husselman/Handré Visagie
Môreson Widow Maker 2018 – WO Stellenbosch, Winemaker: Clayton Reabow
Neethlingshof Estate Pinotage 2020 – WO Stellenbosch , Winemaker: De Wet Viljoen
Stellenrust Cornerstone Pinotage 2019 – WO Stellenbosch, Winemaker: Tertius Boshoff
La Cave Pinotage, 2018 – WO Wellington, Winemaker: Francois van Niekerk
2021 Perold Absa Cape Blend Winners
Beyerskloof Faith Cape Blend 2018 – WO Stellenbosch, Winemaker: Anri Truter Pinotage/Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot
Flagstone Dragon Tree Cape Blend 2018 – WO WC, Winemaker: Gerhard Swart Pinotage/Shiraz/CabernetSauvignon/Durif/Cinsault/Grenache Noir/Mourvedre
Idiom Cape Blend 2018 – WO Stellenbosch, Winemaker: Reino Thiart Pinotage/Cab Sauvignon/Merlot/Cabernet Franc/Shiraz
KWV The Mentors Perold 2019 – WO Coastal Region, Winemaker: Izéle van Blerk Pinotage/Cabernet Sauvignon/Shiraz/Petite Sirah
Simonsig Frans Malan Cape Blend 2017 – WO Stellenbosch, Winemaker: Michael Malan Pinotage/Cabernet Sauvignon/Merlot
2021 Pinotage Rosé Winners
Beyerskloof Pinotage Dry Rosé 2021 – WO WC, Winemakers: Anri Truter, Elsa du Plessis
Du Toitskloof Pinotage Rosé 2021 – WO WC, Winemaker: Shawn Thomson
Jakkalsvlei Pinotage Rosé 2021- WO WC, Winemaker: Louis van der Riet
Maastricht Pinotage Rosé 2021 –WO WC, Winemaker: Thys Louw
Rooiberg Winery Pinotage Rosé 2021 – WO Robertson, Winemaker: André Scriven