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The 6 faces of Pinotage for International Pinotage Day

Six different wines to try on Pinotage Day.

by: Cathy Marston | 07 Oct 2016
wine,pinotage, drinks

Hooray – it’s Pinotage Day on Saturday, 8th October! Who would ever have thought I’d be celebrating that? Not me if you’d asked me 15 years ago when I first came to SA. Then, Pinotage was an awkward, gawky teenager with horrid flavours of banana and bitter, burnt rubber. But if you think it’s STILL like that – time to catch a wake-up my friend!

The transformation in Pinotage in the last decade has been off-the-scale amazing. Winemakers have stopped trying to make it as if it were Shiraz/Cabernet/Pinot Noir and instead have allowed the natural beauties of the grape shine forth. And one of the things we’ve all realised is that this grape is versatile. Capable of making wines in all sorts of styles, it offers a wider range of options than almost any other black grape.

Here are 6 different ways of making it and 6 different wines to try this Pinotage Day – roll the dice and enjoy!!

Rosé – De Krans Pinotage Rosé 2016 R45 cellar door
Pinotage makes great rosé – you can also try the fragrant version from Delheim – but I’m enjoying this one at the moment because it came paired with the most yummy herby biscotti and now I’m smitten! Just off-dry, this is totally meant to go with food and will bring zest and fruitiness to any salad, chicken or fresh fish dish.

Little or no wood – Backsberg Pinotage 2015 R67 cellar door
Some wines need lots of toasty oak to support them, but not SA’s favourite grape! This Pinotage has only been in 2nd and 3rd fill barrels so the oak is only perceptible as a spicy note rather than any dramatic toast, char or smoke. It’s a bit of a spice-bomb all round in fact, enlivening cherry-berry fruit in the most delightful manner – try it with a juicy peppered steak or a grilled loin of game. 

Sparkling – Villiera Tradition Brut NV R120 from major retailers
Okay, this is actually a blend of Pinotage and other, more familiar, MCC varieties such as Chardonnay and Pinot Noir. But that doesn’t mean that including 16% of Pinotage doesn’t add an extra filip of structure and spice to the wine as well as bumping up the red berry fruit hints. At the end of the day, we’re not France so we don’t need to copy champagne, instead allowing our natural South African exuberance and zest for life shine through – exactly what happens when you drink this wine!

Rich and Full – Neethlingshof Owl Post Pinotage 2014 R190 from the Bergkelder Vinoteque
Boy oh boy – if we’d always made Pinotage like this, we’d have conquered the world ages ago! Not to worry – that takeover bid starts now with this wine winning the best Pinotage at the International Wine & Spirits Competition a mere week ago. Ain’t nothing shy and retiring about this wine with its big, bold flavours and fragrant vanilla oak, giving it richness, warmth and a wonderful sense of well-being and happiness. Class in a glass. 

Soft and elegant – B Vintners Liberté Pinotage 2015 R245 specialist retailers
I often say that the best Pinotages remember their Mom, Pinot Noir, and perform best in cooler climates and this really is a case in point. Made by winemaking cousins Gavin Bruwer and Bruwer Raats, this comes from old vines planted on the southern side of Stellenbosch, very close to the ocean. It’s a Pinotage to convert ignorant Pinotage-haters – taste this mouthful of bright red fruit with fresh acidity once, you’ll love the variety (especially when made by this talented pair) for ever. 

Cape Blend – Idiom Cape Blend 2014 Approx R299 cellar door
A Cape Blend should contain at least 30% Pinotage and the rest can be made up according to the whim of the winemaker. But you don’t make wines on a whim and win a Top 5 place in the ABSA Cape Blend competition – which this one has just done. I tasted it earlier in the year and loved it, absolutely loved it. From Pinotage with various bits of Bordeaux varieties, it’s a symphony of flavour, elegance, length and pleasure. Not yet released, my advice is snap it up as soon as you can.

ALSO READ:Is there coffee in my Pinotage?

- Cathy Marston

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