The real McCoy South African grape. One that 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 Cinsault 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, 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, pâtés 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!