Pinotage is a recent addition to the wine world, having been created in South Africa in 1925, by Stellenbosch University Professor A.I Perold. Perold crossed the Pinot Noir and Cinsaut grapes with the aim of acquiring the best qualities of both parents: classic Pinot Noir flavors with a bountiful crop from sturdy, disease resistant vines.
Initially, Pinotage failed to meet this promise, and was largely ignored. Now that the grape has been "rediscovered," starting in the 1990s, and is now widely planted in South Africa, its current appeal stems from the uniqueness of its flavors. As a replacement for Pinot Noir, it was not a success. Instead, the grape provides a range of styles: from old-fashioned, dry, and somewhat baked to sweeter, spicy, and more obviously fruity. Expect flavors of mulberry, blackberry, and tobacco, often with rich spiciness and gamy nuances.
Pinotage may be easier to cultivate than its fussy parent Pinot Noir, but viticulture is not without challenges. When grown under conditions of high water stress and high temperatures, the wine may take on characteristics of spray paint or rusty nails. Not so good. Once cultivators discovered that these charateristics could be avoided by growing the grape in "softer" conditions, the profile of the grape began to rise, and the wine became more successful in the international marketplace.
Even still, Pinotage remains a great value. We think the finest examples still come from the grape's birthplace in the beautiful Stellenbosch region, and we especially like releases from Kanonkop Estate and Ken Forrester.
Pinotage is a versatile and food-friendly wine: pair it with a hearty winter bean soup, game, or ratatouille.