Age: Most should be enjoyed within a few years, but the best wines age well.
Pinotage (pinno-targe) was created in South Africa by Professor Abraham Perold in 1925 by crossing the two French grape varieties Pinot Noir and Cinsault (which was traditionally called Hermitage in South Africa and hence the name Pinotage). However, it was not until 1961 that the name Pinotage first appeared on a wine label.
It performs best in a warm climate, but can also deal well with cooler conditions. Yield control measures are necessary to ensure an optimal crop and it is at its best when the vines are pruned back and the grapes are allowed to fully ripen. If the vines are stressed due to a lack of water and temperatures get too high, an undesirable aroma can develop which is variously described as nail varnish, acetone or spray paint. This is acerbated if temperatures rise too high during fermentation.
Good winemaking is therefore essential and the Pinotage Association in South Africa has done a great deal to raise quality and standards. Pinotage is used to make wines in a range of styles and is frequently blended with other varieties, particularly Cabernet Sauvignon and Merlot.
As a varietal wine it is generally full bodied with medium tannins and high acidity. Fruity aromas infused by violets are followed on the palate by flavors of blackcurrant, blackberry, cherry, strawberry and plum that can be accompanied by tropical fruits such as banana. Spicy notes, such as cinnamon, cloves and licorice, are characteristic as well as oak flavors and occasionally vegetal undertones can be present. It takes well to oak, which adds smoky notes and develops the wines’ structure and complexity.
Pinotage has its followers and its critics, but with low yields from old vines it is capable of producing wonderfully deep and vibrant wines. This unique grape, a South African specialty, is well worth investigating, as it is capable of delivering an extremely rewarding wine experience.
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