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Pinotage, a home-grown hero

Words: Johlene Lehnberg ǀ Photos: Courtesy of Barista, Beyerskloof, Fleur du Cap, OBiKWA & Simonsig

If ever there was a home-grown antidote to winter’s chill it is none other than the smoky and earthy flavours of Pinotage, a grape variety firmly rooted in South Africa’s wine history.

It all started way back in 1925, when Dr A.I. Perold, a viticulture professor at Stellenbosch University, tried to combine the best qualities of Pinot Noir and Cinsaut (referred to as Hermitage at the time).

History lesson aside, like most other grape varieties Pinotage has its lovers and haters. So it is up to you to give it a whirl and decide whether you are a Pinotage fan or foe.

Let’s talk style. Pinotage wines are available in almost every style imaginable, from easy drinking to barrel-aged wine intended for cellaring, from easy quaffing rosé to robust reds, and even port. But with a touch of South African creativity you can also try out Coffee Pinotage or an exceptional Cape Blend.

Don’t fret, Coffee Pinotage does not contain actual coffee. The distinctive coffee / dark chocolate character of Coffee Pinotage is achieved by fermenting the wine on toasted wood. This is a new-world style of making wine and a favourite with novice wine lovers who have an adventurous palate. On the flip side, the Cape Blend might offer a more satisfying taste to seasoned wine enthusiasts who prefer more traditional style wines.

A Cape Blend contains between 30% and 70% Pinotage combined with any other red variety. By blending Pinotage with other varieties, such as Shiraz or Cabernet Sauvignon, the winemaker allows each variety to contribute its own intrinsic value to the wine as a whole.

Cover up and immerse yourself in one of our home-grown heroes, and with so many alternatives available on the shelf it will not be hard to find a new favourite. Here are some examples:

Beyerskloof Pinotage
Enjoy strong plum flavours with velvety tannins. This well-structured, medium-bodied wine has a fresh, superbly balanced finish. For the best taste experience drink it young. Cellardoor price: R51

Fleur du Cap Bergkelder Selection Pinotage
This full-bodied wine shows ample berry fruit, dominated by plum and sweetish fruit-cake character that is enhanced by a spicy oak finish. The palate is rich with ripe plum flavours and has a good tannin structure, which will soften with time. Cellardoor price: R75

OBiKWA Pinotage
OBiKWA Pinotage is an easy-drinking, medium-bodied wine boasting blackberry, plum and prune aromas, with oak spices in the background. These lovely aromas follow through on the palate. Available from leading liquor outlets at around: R30

Barista Pinotage – a Coffee Pinotage
This Pinotage is jam packed with coffee, chocolate and cherry aromas, with meaty, savoury hints. The tannins are ripe, perfectly suiting the round and mouth-filling plum and mulberry fruit. Available from wine outlets at around: R70

Simonsig Frans Malan – a Cape Blend
This formidable blend of Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot has rich layers of plum, blackcurrant and fynbos, supported by a thread of cinnamon spice. The delicate use of wood lends subtle chocolate and mocha flavours, with soft and supple tannins. This well-crafted, classic Cape Blend seamlessly melds the various fruit components into a beautifully balanced wine. Cellardoor price: R180