Red wine season is in full swing and we have the latest on what to drink this winter thanks to our wine writer Greg Landman who embarked on the Herculean task of tasting all these lovely Pinotage wines.
The father of the Pinotage grape, Professor Abraham Izak Perold sadly did not live to taste the wine this uniquely South African grape went on to produce. The famous four seeds he had developed narrowly missed being destroyed after a young lecturer at Stellenbosch named Charlie Niehaus rescued them. A cross between the robust Cinsault (known as Hermitage in SA then) and the finicky Pinot Noir grape, one would have thought that it would have inherited the best of both parents. But this is not so. Pinotage is completely its own creation. With all the hallmarks of a delicious and deeply interesting grape, it is made in a variety of styles all over the country, and is a must-have component in so called Cape Blends. The area under Pinotage vines is now at 7.38% making it our third most planted red grape. Other countries have dabbled with it, like New Zealand and the USA, but it is still a grape that belongs to us. It is often criticised for having distinctly acetone nuances (think banana), but these disappear over time.
What does it taste like? Well a lot more like Shiraz than Pinot Noir, but fruity, intense and delicious with a maverick’s edge – very South African. Flavours of chocolate and coffee are sometimes apparent in some examples, but I say if you want chocolate, get some – and the same goes for coffee.
Single Pinotages are either wooded or not, but can never be accused of being shy, especially with a high alcohol content that at times reaches 15%. Pinotage is an excellent food wine and, like all of our reds, it should be served at European room temperature (about 16℃) and benefits from decanting to release all those fabulous aromas.
If you prefer a Pinot Noir over Pinotage, then take a look at Greg’s list. If reds aren’t your thing, then be sure to have a look at our list of White Blends and Sauvignon Blancs. Or if you’re in the mood for a celebration, take a look at Greg’s bubbly list.
16 of the Best Pinotage Wines
Van Loveren African Java 2019
This award-winning bottle has been oaked for four months to support luscious fruit, distinct coffee odours and flavours. It is fabulous at the braai with the manne after rugby. Pick up a bottle for R70 at the cellar.
Van Loveren Rhino Run Pinotage 2018
This is just the thing to knock back when you need a lift. It has some oaking, and is juicy and intense. It has no pretensions to being anything but a quaffable and is great company when enjoying a burger. A real treat at R70 a bottle.
Angels Tears Le Chocolat 2018
Chocolate aromas and flavours lurk under all that fruit but this is as far from a Kit Kat as you will ever get. The eight months spent oaking in French barrels adds intensity to this very popular wine. At R95 a bottle, it makes for fabulous company with red meat casseroles.
Neethlingshof Estate Pinotage 2017
This typical Pinotage features plums and banana on the nose with plenty of fresh ripe summer fruits that lift the spirit. The perfectly controlled tannins and judicious oaking support it all making it a delicious treat. You can’t go wrong with this multiple award winner from an iconic estate. Pair it with a beef roast for just R105 a bottle.
Simonsig Pinotage 2016
You’ll find that this Pinotage has intense aromas of cherries and plums on the nose making it fragrant and alive. With a glorious deep garnet colour, its fruity and tangy flavours make it an easy drinker with a sweet palate to keep it all in check. Surprisingly fresh for a 2016. Try it with pork ribs for R110 a bottle from the cellar.
Kanonkop Kadette 2017
This is the cheeky young brother to the more serious Kanonkop Pinotage. It’s ready earlier and uses older oak barrels making it deliciously perky. This kadette goes perfect with hamburgers, ribs and things you eat with your fingers. Pick up a bottle for R120 from the cellar.
Diemersfontein Coffee Pinotage 2017
If you like the distinct flavours of chocolate and coffee that sometimes are to be found in Pinotage, you will love this one as it just so happens to be a leader in this style. Flavours of plums and grapes add to its complexity making it the perfect match for light Malay curries and oxtail bredie. Add this to your wine rack at R127 a bottle from the cellar.
One expects only the best from this label and this Survivor Pinotage is no exception. The grapes are from low yielding old vines in Constantia contributing to its deep dark fruit flavours that are smooth and appealing. It goes beautifully with roast chicken or pork. Pick up a bottle for R175 from the cellar.
De Grendel Amandelboord Pinotage 2017
The grapes were picked just before dawn when they are packed with all the good stuff. The juice was transferred to 225ℓ French and American oak barrels to mature for 11 months. The result is a knockout from this venerable Durbanville estate. The Amandelboord Pinotage is a medium bodied wine that’s deliciously complex with a sour cherry tang. The next time you’re serving roast beef, be sure to pair it with a bottle for R200 from the cellar.
David & Nadia Topography Range Pinotage 2017
Talented husband and wife team, David and Nadia Sadie – she in the vineyards and he in the cellar – have made this delicious, unusually low alcohol Pinotage (at 12%) knockout. It’s smooth, elegant and full of Swartland flavours. The 12 months it spent in large barrels adds to its pure, fresh and natural style. Find it for R220 a bottle from Cybercellar.
KWV The Mentors Pinotage 2016
Grapes from Darling, expertise from those clever people at KWV Paarl and oak from France result in this modern style, totally delicious wine. With slightly spicy nose like cloves and darkly intense red fruits leads to a long and lingering finish. It goes swimmingly with a slow-roasted pork belly.
Groot Constantia Pinotage 2017
Master winemaker Boela Gerber knows a thing or two about making wines worthy of the iconic Groot Constantia name. This is as far as I know the only Pinotage marked WO Constantia and it carries its name well. It spent 14 months in 43% new French oak barrels which perfectly supports all that delicious fruit with some meaty flavours on the palate. Pick up a bottle for R260 at the cellar.
Neethlingshof Short Story Collection – The Owl Post
Paying tribute to the balance of nature which Neethlingshof nurtures, this full bodied complex wine has inviting aromas of cherries and coffee on the nose, leading to a smooth drinking experience with a long lingering finish. The label says it will mature well over the next 10 years but who has time? Drink now and enjoy at R260 from the cellar.
Jan Harmsgat Pinotage 2016
A spectacular deep dark colour leads one to expect something heavy but that is not so. The gentle tannins and red fruit flavours lead to a sweetish long finish making it easy to drink. It makes for a fabulous wine with a light Thai curry. Treat yourself to a bottle at R270.
Kanonkop Pinotage 2017
No list of SA reds, especially Pinotage, would be complete without including the masterpieces from Abrie Beeslaar. Personally I would not drink this with any food – what would be worthy? It’s a fabulous deep ruby colour with spicy aromas of rich red fruit. Elegant and complex, and yet packed with vibrant freshness – just superb. The integration of wood and fruit is outstanding. If you really must pair it with a meal, you can do no less than roast duck if you must. A bottle goes for R390 from the cellar.
Survivor Pinotage Reserve 2017
Meticulous attention to nurturing this fine wine made exclusively from Swartland Pinotage grapes has landed them a Best Pinotage Trophy at the Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show 2019. Intense aromas and flavours are hallmarks of the best from winemaker Ben Snyman and this is no exception. Only 1 500 bottles were made and all individually numbered. If you manage to get your hands on a bottle you’ll need to cough up R390.
Words Greg Landman
Photography Skitterphoto; Supplied
As the wine writer for Country Life magazine for the last 15 years, Greg has met and interviewed more than 150 of the country’s top wine makers. His articles offer unique insights into where to eat, what to drink, and where to go all over the Western Cape. With his dining companion Beryl Ormsby Browne, he has also reviewed more than 60 country restaurants for the magazine and has been a reviewer for the prestigious Eat Out Guide for 12 years. His passion for everything the winelands has to offer has led him into the world of wine tours. To find out more, visit his website Magic Grape Tours.