Pinotage is a black grape from South Africa’s Stellenbosch, that now can be found also in a few other countries.
From a viticulture point of view, Pinotage is like a horse that yet remains to be backed and trained. It has a tendency to respond with Volatile Acidity (VA) when growing conditions get too warm, especially in the end of the growth season, or if it will experience water stress. This can also happen if the fermentation is done at too high of a temperature, e.g. above 30°C/86°F.
It needs a good pruning in order to produce high quality grapes. In the vineyard, it used to be known to produce better grapes if grown as bush vine, but lately wines made from vines being managed with a trellising system.
Flavours are commonly of dark skinned fruit such as plums, blackberries, and forest raspberries. It is also common that you find aromas and flavours from the spectrum of liquorice, tobacco, smoke, and coffee.
There’s a myth about Pinotage wines, that either you hate it or you love it. Regardless of it you believe in this myth or not, you have to try in order to know where you stand.
The best expressions of a varietal Pinotage can be found in South Africa’s Coastal Region, especially from the mountainous parts of Swartland and Stellenbosch. Pinotage is also vinified as rosé.
There are also Pinotage blends on the market, for example with Shiraz and/or Cabernet Sauvignon, maybe attempting to create a kind of Bordeaux blend with one part firmly planted in South Africa.
Dishes based on Chicken will be very nice with a young Pinotage varietal, and the wine is best served at 14-15°C/57-59°F.
A Pinotage with a bit of age will be very nice with various meet dishes, also with grilled meat. However, if you have managed to find a top of the line wine, a wonderful pairing will be with Seared Duck Breast with fresh compound herb butter. The wine is best served at 16-18°C/61-64°F.
Where is it grown?
When you think of Pinotage, you immediately think of South Africa. In the future, this might however change to include more countries as there are reports of the arrival of plantings in other parts of the world as well.
- South Africa 6.240 ha/15,419 ac, MPG 8, PTPA 6%.
- Brazil 75 ha/185 ac, MPG 32
- New Zealand, 74 ha/183 ac, MPG 17
- USA 9 ha/22 ac, MPG 115
- Canada, 6 ha/15 ac, MPG 48
The plantings in Brazil, USA, and Canada appear to be new in the sense that they are reported in the statistics of 2010 but were not in the ones from 2000.
The varieties history is well documented. Pinotage was created as a crossing between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut in 1925. The name reflects both parents, but in order to understand this, you have to know that Cinsaut was called Hermitage in South Africa.
The breeder was Abraham Perold, professor at the Stellenbosch University. However, had it not been for another employee, the variety could have gone lost. It was “rescued” and later, in the 1940-ies, started to be used for commercial wine production.