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South Africa, part 4: Pinotage

>> Sunday, July 11, 2010

So, what’s the status of pinotage, South Africa’s very own grape? It’s a cross between pinot noire and cinsault, made some hundred years ago. These days it covers only 5% of the total vineyard area, a slight increase since 1998. The winemakers seem to agree. It is a difficult grape variety! Wynand Grobler at Rickety Bridge says that “pinotage is the most difficult of all grape varieties. Either you get hard tannins or you get banana aromas!” It can become too meaty, he continues, so you have to be careful. In particular, you must avoid over-extraction. He thinks it is a very difficult balance to find. In 2008 he made his first own pinotage. Judging from that he knows how to find the balance. The wine is very tasty, with dark, ripe fruit, some plums and quite a bit of spice. But he’s learnt a lot since then, he claims, listening to suggestions and advice from friends.

As a consumer one must agree – it is a difficult grape variety. You never know quite what to expect from a pinotage, there are so many different styles. From the simple, fruity, unpretentious version from Kleine Zalze to Groot Constantia’s powerhouse filled with spices and smelling of a freshly tarred summer pier.

(And if you're curious  - why that photo?)


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