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Pinotage – hate it or love it? | Beaumont House

Posted by peter | Articles | Posted on October 31st, 2011

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In response to the 9 July posting on Pendock Uncorked regarding the closure of Wine magazine, “Boetie” commented “With the luxury of hindsight, Wine magazine lost their way when they abandoned pinotage in favor of shiraz. They sacrificed their South African identity to become yet another wine magazine.”

If Wine magazine had stayed faithful to the Pinotage cause, would it still be in business? When I last checked, Vergelegen’s André van Rensburg and Eben Sadie of Columella and Palladius fame had still not opted to work with the variety. Or Marc Kent of Boekenhoutskloof, for that matter.

In some quarters, I am and always will be a Pinotage hater on account of the role I had in getting Wine magazine to forsake Pinotage in favour of the Shiraz Challenge back in 2004. Conversely, other observers accused me of a fairly significant flip-flop when I suggested in the December 2010 issue of UK publication Decanter that “today’s crop is worthy of a fresh look”.

Here’s the deal: I don’t think staying true to Pinotage would’ve influenced Wine magazine’s destiny in the slightest; for every high-profile winemaker who has taken a (cheap) shot at Pinotage, there are a whole bunch who have persevered with it and have in some instances managed to make accomplished wines (think Danie Steytler of Kaapzicht, Beyers Truter formerly of Kanonkop and now of Beyerskloof and as unlikely a protagonist as Anthony Hamilton Russell with his Ashbourne and Southern Right labels).

As for my personal take on wines from the variety, I would still contend that what was on offer circa 2003/2004 was generally pretty hopeless. It does amaze me that the turn-around in quality at the top-end of category has happened quite so fast but I suspect the critical hammering that Pinotage received in the late 1990s and early 2000s forced the faint-hearted out of the market while those committed to the variety duly went about upping quality (there were some fairly fundamental technical issues – acetone character, bitterness – which had to be addressed and were).

I write this with a glass of Kanonkop Pinotage 2009 to hand and would point out that this particular wine has to date won a silver medal at this year’s Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show (as did the 2003 and 2008 from this producer) and has placed in the last 20 from which this year’s winners of the Absa Top 10 Pinotage competition will be drawn (as is the 2006).

The 2009 from Kanonkop is a tour de force with pure and intense berry character, fresh acidity and fine tannins. You’d have to be spectacularly bloody-minded not to like it. Ultimately, however, Pinotage remains South Africa’s wild card. Yes, it’s a man-made cross and yes, the results are sometimes a little peculiar but there’re is far too much wine out there premised on simplification and mass appeal. Pinotage has its place and if it offends the delicate sensibilities of UK wine writers as much as it apparently does so much the better!

Article by Christian Eedes

10 Responses to “Pinotage – hate it or love it? | Beaumont House”

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