A growing pinotage appreciation

Like Bafana Bafana or the Boks, the topic of our “national grape”, pinotage, can instantly divide a room into opposing camps, each with its own firmly-held opinions on its performance.
Saturday is International Pinotage Day, celebrating the cultivar created when Prof Abraham Perold famously crossed pinot noir and cinsaut (then called hermitage) in 1925, and signalling growing appreciation around the world for the once much-maligned grape. Readers from around the world commenting on the winefolly.com article, “Give pinotage wine a chance” talk of having “fallen in love” with pinotage on a visit to SA.
Pinotage Association marketing manager Johan Schwartz says pinotage celebrations will be held in Asia, Europe and the US “where there is a new excitement amongst wine lovers for pinotage”.
Closer to home, the pinotage renaissance arises from winegrowers and makers going for lower yields and letting the natural character of the grape shine through, showcasing fruit more than big oak. Today’s best pinotages show brightness and juicy fruit, bold flavours of dark, inky berries and often a delicious savoury character.
There’s a vast array of pinotages (and price points) to choose from on the shelves if you want to celebrate the national grape.Some that won’t do you wrong include of course “king of pinotage” Beyers Truter’s Beyerskloof pinotage or Synergy Cape blend (around R75-R95); Bellingham’s plummy Homestead pinotage (R85-R95) with its subtle spice and soft tannins; or celebrate pinotage history with Lanzerac’s smooth, elegant version (R145).
The first commercially bottled pinotage was the 1959 vintage released under the Lanzerac label, but less well-known is that the wine itself was from Bellevue, where they celebrate their role in the story of pinotage with the “1953” pinotage, made from a treasured old vineyard planted that year.Only 600 bottles of the 2016 vintage were made (selling at R545 direct from the estate), the wine big and bold with intense ripe, dark fruit, complex aromatics and a deep lingering finish. It’s likely to age into ever-more classiness and definitely worth seeking out for a special occasion or collection.
A rare beauty to seek out is the Vondeling 2015 Bowwood pinotage, which recently took home the JF Hillebrand trophy for top-scoring pinotage at the Michelangelo International Wine Awards. It’s a limited release, made from a small “shy-yielding” vineyard on the Voor Paardeberg farm, and while winemaker Matthew Copeland may describe the grape as a “workhorse”, he’s made a stallion of a wine.
Bowwood delivers polished finesse, balancing delicacy and power, rich intense plummy fruit with subtle savouriness, sweet spicy-smoky notes and fine tannins make up a serious, and seriously lovely, wine (R335 from estate) – this is what pinotage should be.
Pinotage is a great partner to some favourite South African foods too – think braai, biltong, blue cheese, waterblommetjie bredie and bobotie.
Look out for Pick n Pay’s specials on leading pinotage labels running until November 4.

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