When it comes to Pinotage, the variety of styles available out there surely provide every fan a surfeit of choice of wines to be able to explore the true nature of the indigenous South African grape.
Inevitably, what may appeal to one person, can be repelling to the other, hence the expression “one man’s meat is another man’s poison”. Ultimately, what counts is that there is always something for every consumer to enjoy in Pinotage’s rainbow.
Pinotage, which came into being when Professor Izak Perold merged Pinot Noir and Hermitage (Cinsaut) grapes, can be found in medium-bodied to full-bodied versions. Typically reflect its characteristic red fruit (strawberry, raspberry, cherry etc), tropical fruit flavours coupled by earthy, vegetal and animal notes. The aromas tend to reflect the same fruit flavours, including plum and bananas.
“A well-wooded Pinotage often has chocolate flavours associated with it,” says the Pinotage Association of South Africa on its website. “Make a chocolate pancake or dark chocolate truffle cake, and surprise your friends with how well a sparkling Pinotage accompanies that”.
Interestingly, the well-wooded style of Pinotage reflecting more pronounced chocolate flavours once sparked a bit of controversy when it became trendy more than five years ago. Shunned by some and loved by others, coffee-chocolate Pinotage has now entrenched itself out there as a coterie of winemakers continue to explore it as a labour of love – chiefly Diemersfontein and Barista.
Notably, winemaker Bertus Fourie is credited as the first to introduce this style of Pinotage. A feat that earned him the moniker “the prince of coffee-chocolate Pinotage” or Starbucks. He invented the coffee style while operating as cellarmaster at Diemersfontein wine estate, and still tinkles with it today under the Barista label.
South Africa, the mecca of Pinotage
Noteworthy, though, is that Fourie’s feat subsumes to the greater prestige of the crown indisputably worn by Beyers Truter, who is widely regarded as “the father of Pinotage”. Needless to say, Truter is to Pinotage, what the Great Pele is to football, having dedicated his life to the promotion and advancement of Pinotage. His passion for the South Africa’s indigenous grape was rewarded in 1991, when he was named International Winemaker of the Year at the International Wine and Spirit Competition for his 1989 Kanonkop Pinotage.
And so 1991 became a watershed year for Pinotage. That award marked a huge awakening of the sceptical world to the unheralded quality of Pinotage wines. And, most significantly, the development gave South African winemakers a massive dose of confidence to work much harder in cementing Cape winelands’ credentials as the mecca of Pinotage.
Right on the footsteps of Diemersfontein coffee Pinotage and Barista follows the newest addition to the genre – Angels Tears Le Chocolat Pinotage 2017 (R55). A medium-bodied wine with a sumptuous fruity palate laced with hints of chocolate. It is undoubtedly a funky, easy drinking wine that, not only seduces the palate with the ripeness of fruit and layers of chocolate notes, but one that reflects a balanced structure with soft tannins and an endearing finish.
Of Le Chocolat, Grande Province winemaker Hagen Viljoen says the wine owes “its seductive flavour profile to the careful use of well-toasted French oak” during and after fermentation.
“The oak imparts rich toasty notes which lend wonderful chocolate and coffee flavours to the wine when combined with ripe plummy and red berry fruits typical of the Pinotage grape,” Viljoen says, adding that the red wine is perfect with any red meats or barbeque dishes.
Enjoyed on its own, this Pinotage is just as gorgeous, and no doubt makes a soulful mark towards the evolution of genre.
TOP COFFEE-CHOCOLATE PINOTAGES TO TRY
- SIMONSVLEI Ja-Mocha Pinotage (R79)
- ANGEL’S TEARS Le Chocolat (R55)
- DIEMERSFONTEIN Pinotage (R129)
- BARISTA Pinotage (R79)
- KWV Cafe Culture Pinotage (R55)
- VAN LOVEREN African Java Pinotage (R69)
- DOOLHOF Estate Dark Lady Pinotage 2017 (R89,500)
***Prices as at 2018.