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International Pinotage Day: a New World variety

10/10/2020 Decántalo

Every second Saturday in October, we celebrate International Pinotage Day, and this is a great opportunity to discover one of the New World’s flagship varieties that is still largely unknown to many wine lovers.

pinotage

It’s always good to have something to celebrate. So why not celebrate to help promote one of South Africa’s most important varieties that is gradually gaining more popularity around the world? This Saturday, October 10, 2020 is International Pinotage Day, so what better excuse to take a look at our selection of Pinotage wines. If you still don’t know much about this variety, here are some facts.

A variety made by crossing one variety with another

The Pinotage variety was made by crossing one variety with another. The man behind this crossing was Abraham Perold, a professor of viticulture at the University of Stellenbosch, in South Africa, who in 1925, decided to create a unique variety that combined the elegance of Pinot Noir with the vigour of Cinsaut (called Hermitage in South Africa). So the name of the new variety is a blend of these two varieties: Pino-tage. The results were immediate and the grapes ripened quickly, developing high levels of sugar, they had no health problems and were a much deeper colour than its parent varieties. In other words, this new berry was relatively easy to grow, which made it possible to produce a fairly alcoholic red with an elegant and markedly fruity character

Although it is now the second most planted variety in South Africa, Pinotage has been heavily under-appreciated for decades. This is because when Apartheid ended in 1990 and South Africa entered the world market, many producers chose more famous international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon and SyrahThere are now new generations of South African winegrowers, who are well trained and proud of their land, and it is they who have recognised Pinotage as one of their country’s leading varieties. It is now so successful that it is grown throughout the country, and has also spread to other New World countries like New Zealand, Canada, Brazil, Australia, Chile and the USA. However, the best place to celebrate International Pinotage Day is in its native country, specifically near Cape Town, where they make best wines with the best international reputations. 

The king of the “Cape Blend”

Pinotage wines come in many forms. The single-variety wines are intensely aromatic, elegantly fruity and deliciously velvety. This variety has been criticised for sometimes having an acetone smell, but in truth, it is the perfect choice for including in a blend. If there is one thing the Pinotage grape is known for around the world, it is its use in the famous Cape Blend wines. 

Cape blend wines, are a style of red wines that are characteristically South African. These wines are made with a proportion of Pinotage mixed with other grapes. These blends work very well with noble varieties like the Syrah, Merlot and Cabernet Sauvignon and they have become a great introduction to this country’s wines. However, as is the case with everything, there are differences in opinion when it comes to recognising cape blend wines as the quintessential ambassador of the Coastal Region and Western Cape South Coast wine regions. Not only is its official recognition disputed, but there are also disagreements about the minimum (30%) and maximum (70%) amount of Pinotage grapes that should go into South African wine. Although the debate continues, the reality is that Pinotage, in all its forms, will always have a central place in South African wine production. 

Here are 3 Pinotage wines

Kanonkop Kadette Pinotage 2017

kanonkop

Awarded 93 Decanter points, this single-variety wine made by the Kanonkop winery is a very good introduction to Pinotage in its purest form. Fruitiness, silkiness and concentration, made in one of the most sublime terroirs in the Western Cape. 

Robertson Winery Pinotage 2019

robertson

Robertson Winery is an exceptional valley on the Western Cape South Coast, where vines have been cultivated for over six generations. A wine with a well-integrated fruit and barrel that reveals the dignity of this famous local grape.

David & Nadia Elpidios 2017

david y nadia

Members of the independent Swartland collective, David & Nadia Wines are a couple of winemakers who are committed to organic farming and minimal intervention winemaking in the Western Cape. A new generation blend that is fresh and pure with its own personality. 

So, that gives us one more wine-related date to celebrate. Given that there are more than 300 strains that can be used to make wines, with more and more being rediscovered, it looks like we might have quite a few days to celebrate.  Do you know what the next one will be?