As we’ve said earlier on, Pinotage is still being tested and tried around a few different vineyard sites to see what the best spots will be. They’re getting there but they still don’t 100% know. At the minute though there tends to be roughly two styles, one light-bodied, the other full-bodied. Best thing to do is check the label of the bottle when you pick it up. It will say.
Those lighter styles tend to be from newer sites across an area called the Western Cape. Now unfortunately that doesn’t exactly narrow it down for you. The Western Cape area is massive. It produces over 90% of South African wines, although not all are labeled Western Cape. The Western Cape contains famous districts like Stellenbosch, Paarl, and Robertson. The Western Cape is a catch-all term often used by co-ops and larger producers who source their grapes from all over the place. Newer Pinotage vineyards across the area produce lighter, red-fruit driven wines, a lot like Beaujolais if you’re familiar with those wines.
The bigger wines made from Pinotage come from older vines. These tend to have a more definite labeling term, but not always. Spicy red berry flavours will have a touch of banana and cherry, and if it’s aged or rested in a certain way chocolate, meat, and rubber aromas can develop. Now let’s be fair, that doesn’t sound great. Rubber? Some of these slightly weird aromas is exactly why Pinotage can sometimes split opinion. But again, if it sounds like something you prefer not to have, check the label on the back or ask at the wine shop. They’ll point you in the direction of something you’ll like!
Pinotage isn’t always served up as a pure varietal i.e. it’s sometimes part of a blend. Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot are especially widely grown in South Africa and are blended for many reasons. One reason I guess is that in the past people were more likely to buy it as a blend with grapes they’ve heard of. Nowadays it’s done in what are called “Cape Blends” to add a bit of Bordeaux-esque flavour to the Pinotage. Producers are still playing around with it.
Nice thing about there being so many styles is there’ll be one you like somewhere in there!
Other posts in NWTW Week 8: