If you come to South Africa, you should certainly celebrate your visit with a glass of Pinotage, our very own wine, “born” in South Africa over 80 years ago. Pinotage was developed by Abraham Perold, the first Professor of Viticulture at Stellenbosch University. He crossed the delicious Pinot Noir grape with the Cinsaut variety in an experiment designed to increase its yield and disease resistance. (Back then Cinsaut was known as Hermitage, hence the name Pinotage.) The first commercial plantings were made in 1943; the first wine bottled and labeled as Pinotage was released in 1959.
In 1991 the Kanonkop Pinotage received the Robert Mondavi Trophy as the Best Red Wine and Beyers Truter, then the winemaker at Kanonkop, was named as International Winemaker of the Year. But the glory was short-lived as too much poorly made Pinotage subsequently flooded the market, and for a while, the wine became the variety that international critics loved to hate. Thankfully that’s all in the past, as winemakers have shared their knowledge and skills across the industry with the result that poor pinotage is increasingly rare and well-made and exciting versions are plentiful.
Although Pinotage accounts for over 7% of all varieties planted in South Africa, many winemakers do not make it and you won’t find Pinotage at every winery you visit. So we suggest you make trip to wineries that are acknowledged as makers of outstanding Pinotage.
Hello to Very Pleasing Pinotages
This is the winery of Pinotage pioneer, Beyers Truter. His passion for Pinotage is everywhere. They even serve Pinotage burgers, Pinotage ice cream and Pinotage craft beer if you are looking for a total immersion experience. In the tasting room, you can enjoy some exceptional examples of this special wine.
Start with the Beyerskloof Pinotage, medium bodied with lots of plum flavours and a velvety smoothness that makes it perfect for drinking right now. Make sure you taste the Diesel Pinotage, named after Beyer’s beloved dog. It’s a really serious wine with intense flavours. Buy a bottle and store it, it will still be outstanding in ten year’s time.
Kanonkop is one of South Africa’s most consistently awarded estates, and focuses exclusively on red wine. Their Pinotage comes from bush vines, some of which are over fifty years old. The wine is made in the ancient tradition using open concrete fermenting tanks. Kanonkop has been winning international wards and 90+ ratings for nearly two decades now, so they definitely understand Pinotage. The winery has a second label, Kadette, and this wine is sourced from younger vines on adjacent properties. The Kanonkop Pinotage is rich in red fruits with a wonderful weighty structure that means the wine will age really well. Their ultra premium label is the Kanonkop Black Label, a powerhouse of a wine that has already established a cult following since the first bottling was released in 2010. Abrie Beeslaar, the winemaker at Kanonkop, also has his own sought after label, Beeslaar.
Simonsig is another Stellenbosch winery with a proud history of making good Pinotage. In fact, the first wine that Frans Malan, the founder, released in 1970 was a Pinotage. Their Redhill Pinotage has won many awards.
This estate is yet another Stellenbosch winery well known for its Pinotage. Their Far&Near Pinotage is a little lighter in style as they aim to bring out the Pinot Noir characteristics of the grape. In 2015 L’Avenir opened the Pinotage Lounge in their cellar, where groups can book a tasting with the winemaker that will include old vintages going back as far as the 1970’s.
6. Groot Constantia
If you are looking for a winery closer to town, then Groot Constantia is the answer. Our oldest wine estate, with its gorgeous old buildings seems a very suitable environment for our special grape. Their Pinotage is full of juicy red fruit and plum flavours.
But wait, there’s more…
We asked the experts along each wine route to recommend super examples of Pinotage from their area:
Bot River Wine Route: Beaumont Family Wines
Elgin Wine Route: Spioenkop
Hemel-en-Aarde Wine Route: Southern Right
Tulbagh Wine Route: Rijk’s
Wellington Wine Route: Wellington Wines