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This Saturday 10th October marks the 95th anniversary of what is arguably South Africa's flagship grape variety - Pinotage.
Ever since Pinotage first came into being in 1925, the indigenous variety has had a compelling and colourful story to tell.
Pinotage is the unexpected result of a crossing between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut - the latter being formerly known as Hermitage, hence the name Pino-tage - by Abraham Perold (the handsome gentleman you see below). Pinot Noir is a thin-skinned, delicate grape, renowned for its use in the great wines of Burgundy, while Cinsaut is a hardier grape, resistant to hot climates and dry growing conditions, capable of producing beautifully perfumed wines.
Legend has it that this unusual crossing was accidental, as apparently Perold actually forgot about the four crossed seedlings planted in his garden when he left his position as the first Professor of Viticulture at the University of Stellenbosch. Luckily, the seedlings were soon rescued by a young lecturer, Dr Charlie Niehaus, before any harm could come to them. In due course, these seedlings became the first-ever cultivation of the Pinotage vines we see today.
Perold’s creation was so productive that local producers started planting the fruitful vine in abundant quantities across the Cape. Throughout the 1900s, the grape was largely mis-understood, resulting in wines with a pungent paint-like / burnt rubber aroma and a certain bitterness.
In the past few decades however, viticulturalists and winemakers have learnt how to bring the best out of this hugely versatile grape variety. Older vines generally producing the best results.
Today, Pinotage comes in a wide range of styles: light, fruity and easy-drinking wines not dissimilar to Beaujolais; powerful, oaked wines which can mature beautifully over decades; big, jammy fruit bombs with luscious barbeque smoke; the so-called 'coffee pinotage' with mocca-like flavours derived from oak staves; an important component in Cape Blends; and even fruity rosé wines for the summer.
While each offering has wonderfully unique characteristics, overall Pinotage is a wine suited to any time of year. Enjoy it slightly chilled in the summer, served alongside your poolside barbeque, or pair it with heartier fare in winter, specifically short ribs, hot lamb curry or sticky pork ribs.
Fancy trying some Pinotage today? We highly recommend any (no, ALL) of the below (click the name of the wine to go to the respective product page):
A really moreish, juicy style of Pinotage from the Old Road Wine Company with the gentlest of spice. A new introduction to the range this year that is quickly becoming a favourite.
A stunning Beaujolais-esque Pinotage from one of South Africa's most exciting producers in the up-and-coming Tulbagh Valley - formerly known for being the smallest wine estate in the Western Cape. All their reds are named after their characterful British bulldogs that roam the estate. Spencer is a particularly vibrant character, with flavours of bright red fruit, soft mulberry, and sweet spice.
Kanonkop is arguably the most famous estate for Pinotage. Here, winemaking legends Beyers Truter and Abrie Beeslaar have mastered the art of Pinotage in its most muscular form. Producing varietal Pinotage with such depth that it is capable of decades of maturation in bottle. Here, we have a rare opportunity to try a 10 year old example of this iconic wine.
An awe-inspiring expression of Pinotage. Like Kanonkop, the Ashbourne Pinotage has great structure and richness. However, owing to the cooler Hemel-en-Aarde climate, it also has a distinct elegance with a gentle fresh redcherry and stawberry flavours and delicate florals.
A Pinotage-Shiraz blend delivering flavours of bold dark fruit, chocolate and coffee. A punchy every day red that's ideal for match for steak or a barbeque.
Another Pinotage-Shiraz blend and our favourite wine from Bellingham's premium 'Founders Series'. This wine has remarkable depth of flavour, with concentrated black cherry and blackberry, hints of red plum, beautifully integrated sweet spice, and a never-ending finish.