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New pretenders to the SA Pinotage throne

By Greg Sherwood

31st August 2000

"A young Pinotage will be packed with ripe fruit on the palate, with spicy plum flavours and a jammy character if very ripe. Medium to full-bodied with a lingering aftertaste – often finishing sweetish, even though the wine is dry. Some styles can tend towards the Pinot Noir side of the cross when they age, but seldom to Cinsaut (Hermitage)."

This is how the Pinotage wines from South Africa were described recently in the SA WINE magazine, and I challenge any reader to tell me that it did not make their mouth water, even if just a little!

Yes, Pinotage it seems, is finally on the cusp of becoming a ‘serious’ wine. After all, no one could forget the now infamous story of how, in the USA, Tom Stevenson was served a young South African Pinotage in a 10 year old Cabernet bottle, from a winery of repute, merely moments after telling all who would listen, how ‘dreadful’ Pinotage was, and that ‘it shouldn’t be exported’. After nosing and sipping the wine he proclaimed, ‘marvellous, this is the kind of wine South Africa should make!’ Which just goes to show that when it comes to wine, tasters are best off dispelling all preconceptions and just tasting what’s in the glass, however difficult this may be.

No such problems for the panel of THE WINE MAGAZINE / ABSA PRIVATE BANK PINOTAGE CHAMPION 2000 competition. This year, over 70 Pinotages from the 1998 vintage were judged, most of which fitted into one of three style categories: (1) the fruity, quaffable model, (2) the plusher, more serious, often expensively wooded wines (from where the winners came), and (3) those wines with a slight banana-ester nose, backed by green olive and old-style tobacco nuances.

Ten wines scored 4 stars or more. Here are the wines Pinotage fans and fine wine lovers alike, should be on the lookout for in the months ahead:

1st Place – Steytler Pinotage 1998 (Kaapzicht Estate in Bottelary, Stellenbosch) - 4 Stars.

2nd Place – Bouwland Pinotage Reserve 1998 (Made by undisputed Pinotage King, Beyers Truter)

3rd Place – Spice Route Flagship Pinotage 1998 (Owned by Charles Back of Fairview)

4th Place – Newton Johnson Pinotage 1998 (Run and owned by Cape Wine Master Dave Johnson)

5th Place – Stellenzicht Pinotage 1998 (Gold medal winner at the Tokyo Vinexpo)

6th Place – Diemersdal Pinotage 1998 (Industry ‘old-hand’)

7th Place – Kanonkop Pinotage 1998 (Say no more….)

8th Place – Groenekloof Pinotage 1998 (West Coast winery making waves)

9th Place – Broken Stone Pinotage 1998 (Slaley’s second label stunners)

10th Place – Bredell’s Pinotage 1998 (More than just great port from this winery)

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