Definitely one of the more interesting grape varieties out there- Pinotage! Every now and then its nice to venture into the obscure- in the words of Captain James T Kirk “To Boldly go where no man has gone before!” And while pinotage is hardly where no man (or woman- we’ll be a bit more politically correct than that chauvinist Kirk!) has gone before, it would definitely be a very different variety for a lot of people! Its South Africa’s signature variety, and as such anyone who has travelled to South Africa will generally fall in love with it. But for those who just try it once of, it can be a bit of a shock to the senses- but we’ll get back to that later. First off as always the technically bit of info! Its a blend of Pinot Noir and Cinsaut, and is the brain child of one Abraham Izak Perold. Now clearly good old Abraham loved- and i mean loved!- his Pinot Noir, but he was sick and tired of how finicky and difficult the damn grape was to grow right? rumour has it (and by rumour I mean complete fiction that i just came up with to make the story a little more interesting…) he used to lie awake at night ranting like a lunatic sometimes neighbours would hear him screaming at night time in vineyards at the pinot noir grapes as they were growing “why can’t you be more like cinsaut???” he would inquire “why?????” until one day by complete chance he was drinking he’s Pinot Noir- as he usually would cause he loved it so much- but when he went to top up his glass he accidentally picked up a bottle of cinsaut and poured it in to the same glass. Naturally our hero was scared of his creation- “what have i done?” he cried as he fell to the floor “I’ve created a monster!!!” he proclaimed as he tore he’s hair out! He was clearly fond of a bit of drama… but as he calmed down, he looked upon his Frankenstein with pride- holding it up to the light he uttered one word, one word which solved all the heart ache he had suffered over the years with that damn pinot noir grape, one word which ended an era of heart break and ushered in a new era that would define South African wine forever- one word: Pinotage!
Well now that that digression is over we can go on…. for anyone looking for a more accurate account of the origin of pinotage you can find it here at wikipedia, but to be honest with you i think i prefer my little bit of fiction…. Anyways if there is still anyone reading this we’ll get back to Pinotage! Now the actual name comes from a marriage of the words pinot noir obviously, and the name by which cinsaut is more commonly known in South Africa- Hermitage. Now more about that unique taste which can be a bit off putting at first. It typically produces deep varietal reds with smoky bramble and earthy flavours- definitely unique but not all that obscure i hear you say! But its the addition of flavours of caramelised bananas which is where this wine gets interesting… now it sounds like a strange combination, especially when you get the addition of some tropical fruits with it as well- but you’re really going to have to trust me, when its done right its a fantastic wine. The complexity the variety offers is 100% unique and as such its no wonder its such a special wine, and no wonder at all that it is the variety that defines not only South African wine, but also South African wine innovation. There will be more on South African wine in the next couple of weeks… but don’t worry I’ll work on cutting out the obscure bits of fiction!