Professor Abraham Perold, the father of Pinotage—the uniquely SA grape, the one we can call our own—sadly did not live to taste wine made from the grape he had invented. The famous four seeds he had developed narrowly missed being destroyed had a young lecturer at Stellenbosch named Charlie Niehaus not rescued them. A cross between the robust Cinsault (known as Hermitage in SA then) and the finicky Pinot Noir grape, one would have thought that it would have inherited the best of both parents. But as is so often the case this is not so. Pinotage is completely its own creation, delicious, deeply interesting, it is made in a variety of styles all over the country. Single Pinotages are either wooded or not, but can never be accused of being shy. Alcohol is quite high, at times reaching 15%. Excellent food wines, like all of our reds it should be served at European room temperature (about 16%) and benefits from decanting to release all those fabulous aromas. The area under Pinotage vines is now at 7.38% making it our third most planted red grape. Other countries have dabbled with it, like New Zealand and the USA but it is still to us it belongs—our thing. What does it taste like? Well a lot more like Shiraz than Pinot Noir, fruity, intense and delicious, with a maverick edge—very South African. Flavours of chocolate and coffee are sometimes apparent in some examples, but I say if you want chocolate, get some— and the same goes for coffee.
The Pinotage Association and Absa have announced the winners in this year’s Absa Top 10 Pinotage competition, which marks 24 years since this prestigious award began.They represent various South African wine districts – predominantly from Stellenbosch but also from Breedekloof, Coastal region and Wellington, mostly of the excellent 2018 and 2019 vintage.
The 2021 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
Pictured Abrie Beeslaar; Christelle van Niekerk , Tiger Dorrington, Pierre Wahl
The Museum Iconic class competition has been established to show how well Pinotage can age. These are all superb examples.
2021 Museum Iconic Winners
Kanonkop Pinotage 2010 – WO Stellenbosch, Winemaker Abrie Beeslaar
Rijk’s Private Cellar Pinotage 2011 – WO Tulbagh, Winemaker Pierre Wahl
Rijk’s Reserve Pinotage 2011 – WO Tulbagh, Winemaker Pierre Wahl