Pinotage | South Africa’s Wine Jewel

Vineyard at Pigley Wigley

Winter vines on an estate along the Midland Meander, Kwazulu Natal, South Africa

On my recent trip to South Africa I became re acquainted with Pinotage.  My experience with the varietal had been limited to the rather small selection of “value” wines available inside the United States.

Once in South Africa I found an incredible selection of Pinotage.  Pinotage in South Africa is like Cabernet in California. On my three week trip I tasted 20+ Pinotages, and many of them multiple times.  I was able to get a pretty good idea of the spectrum of flavor profiles the  Pinotage grape can produce across all price points.

The history of Pinotage dates back to 1925 when it was “invented”  by a South African professor of viticulture, Abraham Perold.  He was attempting to make a hearty Pinot Noir by crossing it with Cinsault.  The result was not much of a success until 1959 when a Pinotage took home first prize at the Cape Wine show.  It wasn’t until many years later, in 1991 that Pinotage was back in the spotlight.  South African wine maker Beyers Truter won “Wine Maker of the Year” at England’s International Wine and Spirit Competition for his Pinotage and after that there was a major renewed interest in Pinotage

The flavor profiles vary from a sweet and jammy Zinfandel like wine with a raspberry liqueur component  to a smoky meaty, brambly and velvety Rhone styled wine.  The tannins are usually very robust when the wine is young, but can mellow out nicely if left to age for several years.

Within the borders of South Africa, Pinotage’s price/quality ratio is outstanding.  You can pick up a  good wine for as little as 65 Rand ($10) or a VERY good wine for 130Rand or about $20.  These outstanding wines would be in the $40 to $60 category in the United States.

One thing to keep in mind while exploring the Pinotage varietal: If at first you dont like what you try, try again.  Pinotage style and quality can vary widely.  I will be posting some reviews on some of my favorites from my trip in the coming weeks.

Have you tried Pinotage?

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