Pinotage can justifiably stick its hand up as being the red grape of South Africa. Don’t get me wrong, Bordeaux varieties such as Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon, and Rhone varieties like Syrah have bigger plantings throughout the vineyards, but these are the international varieties.
Pinotage is South African. It was developed here, it’s nearly exclusively grown here, and it’s here where producers are pushing it to its full potential as a grape.
Pinotage is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault. That means that it has the ability to be made in many different styles that we’ll talk about tomorrow. It’s sometimes vilified because of some of the other flavours it develops in the cellars. Rubber and banana is not everyone’s cup of tea. I can understand that.
South African winemakers can look across the Atlantic (and down a bit) at Argentina. The success on the export market they’ve had with Malbec, which has become synonymous with Argentina as a grape, gives the wine an identity and, let’s be cynical here, a brand that works.
What the Argentinians have had that South Africans haven’t, is time. As we said in the last post, it’s only in the 20 years since the change of regime that South African winemakers have been able to really push towards the premium market. Pinotage is still being tested in different sites to check where the best conditions are. When they find it, this grape has the potential to be a world-beater.
We can all do our bit by drinking a few bottles and letting them know how they’re doing!
Other posts in NWTW Week 8:
#NWTW Week 8: Pinotage from South Africa (includes voting poll)