Sure, you’ve enjoyed a glass of Pinot Noir before, but have you ever sipped on some Pinotage? This South African signature grape variety is a hidden gem – read on!

You probably noticed that Pinotage sounds a lot like Pinot Noir. There is a simple explanation to this: Pinotage is a cross between two varietals – Pinot Noir and Hermitage (now known as Cinsault). The red grape hybrid produces deep full-bodied wines with balance and dark fruit and earthy flavors. Born in South Africa, the hybrid is grown almost exclusively in the homeland, where its reputation is made, but can also be found in parts of California and New Zealand.

A little bit of history…

Why haven’t you heard more about this fascinating dark spicy grape? The reason lies with Pinotage’s history. First bred in 1925 by Professor Abraham Izak Perold, the crossing was meant to create a grape that would do well in South Africa’s climate, with the following characteristics: Pinot Noir’s elegant and rich flavors while having the easy-to-grow qualities of productive and disease-resistant Cinsault. Pinotage’s first steps were not very successful, and that set the low-quality reputation of the wine for the years to come. However, since the 1990’s, a few producers have focused on finding ways to improve the quality of the wine, which allowed the bold unique wine to be rediscovered.

How to pick your Pinotage?

Pinotage is what we could call a “tricky” wine. Its style ranges from light-bodied wine with unpleasant aromas of acetone, paint or burnt rubber, to a deep and elegant age-worthy red. Although it can be unpredictable, there is a simple way to make sure you are picking the right Pinotage: local wines – from South Africa – are universally recognized, and more specifically the winemaker Kanonkop, whose old-fashioned winemaking ensures the most powerful and complex Pinotages.

How to pair your Pinotage?

Pinotage is weighty and heavy in tannins, with bold expressions of leather, tobacco and black fruit (mulberry and blackberry). Its rich spiciness still makes Pinotage a versatile and very food-friendly wine. Try it with a roast lamb, bean soup, or, for a more local pairing, with oxtail stew.

Our suggestions:

To start discovering Pinotage, take a first look at producers such as Kanonkop, Beyerskloof and Simonsig. Here are some of our suggestions for a great Pinotage wine experience:

2009 Kanonkop Wine Estate Pinotage Simonsberg Stellenbosch

2008 Beyerskloof Pinotage Diesel Stellenbosch

2011 Simonsig Redhill Pinotage Stellenbosch

2001 Steytler Pinotage

2005 Spice Route Pinotage


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