There are few wines more tightly interwoven into the threads of South Africa’s winemaking history than the flavourful and mighty Pinotage. Celebrated for its juicy red fruit aromatics, this somewhat misunderstood cultivar comes together thanks to a rich earthiness on the palate. As South Africa’s signature grape variety, Pinotage is truly starting to come to the fore, with a variety of expressions and styles making their way across both local territory and international waters. Indeed, as we enter Level 1 with a shared sigh of relief, there has never been a more necessary time to support local winemakers whose valuable prowess make it so worthwhile to drink South African wine.
With the 12th October heralding Pinotage Day, this month we’re raising a glass of our local star to welcome in the warmer weather and a much-needed change of energy. Incredibly, 2020 also marks a whopping 95 years since Pinotage was first crossed in a Stellenbosch garden! This month we invite you to explore the fascinating backstory and historical significance of Pinotage in our country, and how it came to be a staple on wine lists today.
From Misunderstood to Most Sought After
As well-loved as it is today, Pinotage was not always peoples’ top pick when it came to red wine. It was first cultivated in 1925 by Professor Abraham Perold who, quite by accident, forgot about the seedlings he had crossed and planted in his Stellenbosch garden. These subsequently grew into the vines we see today. Dark purple coloured and sturdy in texture, Pinotage grapes are a genetic cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut (Cinsaut was known as “Hermitage” in South Africa at that time, in case you were wondering about the portmanteau name).
According to history books, Perold ambition was quite strategic. He wanted to create a wine that was as delightfully fruity as Pinot Noir but that grew as well as Cinsault. This was because Pinot Noir is a fairly temperamental, cool climate grape that’s not always at home in our hot South African soils. His unexpected crossing yielded a very black grape that was a completely new offering altogether – a wine high in tannins and beautifully bold. It’s often recommended that if you like a Shiraz, then you’ll probably enjoy a glass or two of Pinotage just as much.
Despite its potential, winemakers and sommeliers were fairly wary in the fledgeling days of Pinotage. A new grape cultivar surreptitiously created in the backyard of a somewhat offbeat Stellenbosch professor?
Luckily, recent years have resulted in a completely revised outlook for the dark-skinned grape. Thanks to the expertise of skilled Cape winemakers, Pinotage has come to be better understood and refined. Fermentation and maturation techniques have since developed exponentially, bringing us a wine that is complex and effortlessly classy. Styles of Pinotage now vary as a result of finely-tuned terroir, ranging from light, fruity and easily-quaffable expressions to more serious and intricate offerings that have a depth of matured flavours, making it an ultra-flexible choice for any season and a variety of food. After all, if you’re drinking a local grape, why not pair it with some tasty local cuisine like braai meat or a hot Malay curry that South African’s so love to savour. Finally, this local gem is enjoying the limelight it deserves.
A Pinotage For Every Mood
When aiming to buy the perfect Pinotage, we don’t blame you if the sheer amount of options and prices may seem daunting. But fear not! One of the quickest and easiest ways to intentionally drink local is to buy wine online and our Bellingham online shop has you covered with a premium Pinotage selection at our exclusive cellar door prices. Much like Professor Perold, our winemakers here at Bellingham share a spirit of creativity and innovation (and maybe just the right amount of kookiness). Bellingham Winemaker Richard Duckitt favours working with this variety because of its versatility and adaptability. As a South African shining star, Bellingham offers two different Pinotage styles which individually explore certain characteristics of the variety.
Our Bernard Bush Vine Pinotage focuses on the sensorial elements that are intrinsic to Pinotage. This wine undergoes a lengthy process of fermentation and matures in French oak barrels, imbuing it with its smoothness and long, succulent finish. In contrast, the Homestead Series Pinotage originates from the Coastal Stellenbosch region where bush vines yield small berries with a highly concentrated flavour. This is a younger, easy-drinking wine which highlights the excellent calibre that the region-specific sourcing of grapes can provide.
Now, through the avant-garde vision and ingenuity on which we have built our reputation, we are welcoming a brand new addition to our cellar: Bellingham Homestead Light Pinotage. Led by Richard Duckitt’s visionary concept, the Bellingham vineyard and cellar team crafted a 100% Pinotage varietal that is lower in alcohol but does not compromise on Pinotage’s full flavours and luxurious mouthfeel. Duckitt explains that the inspiration for this special newcomer came from his wife. “Even though we always have plenty of fine wine at home, my wife used to go out every week and buy light wine in an effort to be healthy. What annoyed me was that she had to sacrifice so much of what, in my opinion, makes a wine worth drinking. So, I became determined to make really extraordinary Bellingham Light wines that I can enjoy too!” As the alcohol content is only 8.5%, our new Bellingham Homestead Light Pinotage is also lower in calories (55 calories per 100ml) but still full on quality. Taking the lighter path has never been more rewarding.
Bernard Bush Vine Pinotage 6 Pack
On the eyes: Deep ruby with regal purple tints on the rim
On the nose: Raspberry confit aromas are followed by hints of plum pudding, smoked meat and savoury truffle
On the palate: Sensual black cherry, raspberry and mulberry fruit balanced with earthy mineralogy and notes of oak
Delicious with: A versatile range of red meat dishes including venison, roast lamb and sumptuous beef stews
Available for: R1,782 per 6 pack case
Homestead Pinotage 6 Pack
On the eyes: Intense dark red middle with a shining ruby rim
On the nose: Sweet spices, plums, mulberries with subtle hints of vanilla
On the palate: High concentration of flavours such as ripe, juicy red fruit and black cherry, well-integrated with sweet oak spice and a soft tannin structure
Delicious with: Rosemary and Elderflower roast leg of lamb, sticky barbecue spare ribs, oxtail and osso buco
Available for: R594 per 6 pack case
Homestead Light Pinotage 6 Pack
On the eyes: The wine may be light but the colour retains the same dark ruby intensity you love about Homestead Pinotage
On the nose: Generous red fruit with savoury notes and hints of spice
On the palate: Flavours of red fruit and mixed berries give this low-alcohol wine a voluptuous mouthfeel and lingering finish
Delicious with: Barbecued meats, pork short ribs and lean beef stir fry loaded with vegetables
Soon to launch online, so keep an eye out!