Pinotage is a unique grape variety with origin in South Africa. In 2009, about 6%, or 6,088 ha., of the South African vineyards were planted with Pinotage, and the biggest areas are in Malmesbury, Stellenbosch and Paarl. At present, Pinotage is also grown in the US, Brazil, New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Zimbabwe and Israel.
Because of the efforts of South African makers of Pinotage wines, South Africa has both practical and patriotic reasons for aggressively promoting Pinotage as a grape varietal which provides wines of superior quality, wines which can hold their own against any varietal from any wine-growing region of the world. Pinotage is the trump card of the South African wine industry.
The Pinotage Grapes
(Source: The Pinotage Association)
Pinotage was bred in 1925 by Mr. Abraham Izak Perold (1880-1941), the first professor of viticulture at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa. In the garden of his official residence at the Welgevallen experimental farm belonging to the University of Stellenbosch, Mr. Perold pollinated a Pinot Noir plant with Cinsaut, known at the time in South Africa as Hermitage. He then planted the four resulting seeds in the same garden and forgot them when he left Stellenbosch University to work for the KWV winery in Paarl in 1927.
The seedlings were rescued by Mr. Charlie Niehaus, who transported them to CJ Theron's nursery at Elsenburg Agricultural College, where they were simply labelled Perold's Hermitage x Pinot. He then grafted material from the Pinotage seedlings onto rootstocks at Welgevallen and later showed them to Perold, who urged him to propagate them. They are said to have come up with the name Pinotage - a contraction of those of its parents - while in the Welgevallen vineyard. The best of the four plants was then selected to become the mother material of all Pinotage vines. The first commercial planting of Pinotage was made in 1943 at Myrtle Grove farm near Sir Lowry's Pass (Pinotage Associtation 2010) although the name was not seen on a bottle until 1961, on LANCERAC's 1959 vintage.
(Source: Wine Grapes, First Edition 2012)
Founder of Pinotage Abraham Izak Perold (1880~1941)
(Source: The Pinotage Association)
Pinotage and Food
There are no rules about food and wine. There are only silly conventions which people are changing. Good Pinotage goes well with most good food.
The medium-bodied, 'lifestyle' Pinotage pairs particularly well with a freshly caught game fish or a hearty winter bean soup. Try it also with sashimi and sushi. Bobotie, ratatouille and curry also taste better with a glass of Pinotage next to the plate.
Full-bodied Pinotage is better suited to venison, spare ribs with a rich barbecue sauce, oxtail or osso buco.
At a recent tasting in an upmarket restaurant, a French sommelier chose a 'lifestyle' Pinotage, chilled to 12°C, as the ideal companion to oysters!
Don't be scared. Experiment. Make a shredded pork risotto with Pinotage as a major contributor to the sauce, as well as to the cook's enjoyment. Wake up late on a Sunday morning, and have a glass of Pinotage with your bacon and scrambled eggs.
A well-wooded Pinotage often has chocolate flavours associated with it. Make a chocolate pancake or dark chocolate with truffle cake, and surprise your friends with how well a sparkling Pinotage accompanies that.
The grape and the wine have an infinitive variety of shades and moods, and only your imagination limits its uses. Don't forget, though, that sometimes the best match is just you and a glass of Pinotage.