Pinotage – The Cape Fair, a rare tasting of older wines

“Pinot-ing” is a phrase I’ve used to describe how Beaujolais’ Gamay or Bairrada’s Baga can take on Pinot Noir’s gamey and delicate spice notes with age.  And, unsurprisingly given that it’s a cross of Pinot Noir and Cinsault, Pinotage performs similarly.

Pinotage king Beyers Truter of Beyerskloof (and ex-Kanonkop) presided over this rare opportunity to taste wines no longer available, including the first Pinotage ever bottled – the Lanzerac 1959.  Truter has also been a key player in the Pinotage Association which was formed in 1995 to champion the grape and disseminate best practice in viticulture and winemaking.

For him, the groundwork has now been done to take the variety to the highest level and, in some respects, return to the “classic balance” embodied in the freshness and delicacy of the wines shown, many of which weighed in under 13% abv.  So a shift away from the blockbuster super-oaky and over-alcoholised styles that do not necessarily show the variety in its best light. Nice work!

Kanonkop Cape Winemakers Guild Pinotage 1998 (Stellenbosch) – a developed, quite Pinot Noir-like nose with woodsmoke, game and mineral notes.  The minerality follows through on an elegant palate with plum and gamey nuances. Good freshness and a bitter chocolate edge to the finish.

Vriesenhof Cape Winemakers Guild Pinotage 1997 (Stellenbosch) – a sweeter, more lifted nose with still fresh berries.  The palate shows a nice depth of well-defined, pretty, red fruits  – lovely clarity here with quite woody tannins on the finish, so some mellowing yet to be done.

Beyerskloof Pinotage 1997 (Stellenbosch)
– quite jammy nose with plum and chocolate, though the palate is surprisingly fresh and mineral with sweet cherry fruit and some developed gamey notes to its meaty finish; dryish, firm tannins.

Meerendal Pinotage 1996 (Durbanville)
– very Pinot Noir with cherry, truffle and game;  delicate and beautifully fresh with chalky fine tannins to its cocoa dusted palate; long finish – very good.

Simonsig Pinotage 1995 (Stellenbosch)
– quite developed nose with a very meaty, gamey nose though the palate is more youthful with darker, mocha-edged fruits to its weightier mid-palate than the previous wines.  Firm but ripe tannins.

Simonsig Pinotage 1993 (Stellenbosch)
– very different from the 95, with lovely freshness and minerality around a core of sweet cherry fruit; intense and subtle with a vibrant long finish. Excellent.

Kanonkop Pinotage 1989 (Stellenbosch)
– a veneer of oak to the nose, this still has plenty of go with a succulent, fresh core of ripe black cherry fruit, mocha and coacoa; firm but ripe tannins.  Very good.

Zonnebloem Pinotage 1982 (Stellenbosch)
– out of condition (oxidised)

Zonnebloem Pinotage 1982 (Stellenbosch)
– attractive savoury character with smoked meats and game, together with a café crème character that puts me in mind of vintage port.  Interesting.

Lanzerac Pinotage 1968 (Stellenbosch)
– a really lovely wine, retains great freshness with rich black cherry, a whisp of woodsmoke, liquorice, hints of tar, spice, mocha and chocolate cherry truffle – a veritable feast though very well balanced.  Terrific!

Lanzerac Pinotage 1959 (Stellenbosch)
– the first bottled Pinotage!  Pale garnet, it’s fading but retains a certain charm with delicate cherry and spice notes.

Sarah Ahmed
The Wine Detective
25 September 2008

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