Under the Influence of Pinotage
If you can't come to the winelands at the moment, why can't the winelands come to you? We continue our home wine guides, so you can pair your favourite Pinotage with some home wine edutainment.
Pinotage is a proudly African grape, a unique wine to emerge from the Western Cape of South Africa. That doesn't mean that it has 100% African roots though. The grape was cultivated in 1925 by a professor of Viticulture at Stellenbosch University, Abraham Perold. He was always a huge fan of Pinot Noir, but realised that the grape could not thrive in the warmer climate of South Africa (this was before newer wine regions like Elgin and Hemel-en-Aarde had been established). That is why he was trying to cross it with the more robust Hermitage (Cinsaut) grape, which was widely planted at the time. Strangely enough, this cultivation was done by Perold, in his back garden, but then promptly forgotten about! It was only later that a colleague of his found the seedlings in his overgrown garden (after he had moved house), and they were eventually successfully propogated and named Pinotage!
Unlike Cabernet Sauvignon or other red grapes, it has not been a successful traveller around the world. In fact, the largest planting outside of South Africa is in New Zealand, with a grand total of 38ha. Stylistically, the grape can show full bodied and dark fruit characteristics, particularly from warmer regions. It can also bring forward it's Pinot Noir roots, and show more red fruit and earthy characters, typically from cooler regions. That is one of the reasons we love the grape, but also one of the reasons it hasn't become as iconic a varietal overseas as it might be in South Africa. It doesn't have one strong stylistic characteristic, like we expect from a grape like Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. It is more of a chameleon! Here is a snippet from our Wine101 course on the subject of Pinotage.
We also wanted to share with you some winemakers insights into this beautiful, but complicated grape. Here we have Sebastien Beaumont, of Beaumont Family Wines, giving us a Masterclass on the topic of Pinotage.
Lastly, here is a cheat sheet for you to use on the Pinotage grape. Enjoy your journey, as you explore this proudly African grape.