It’s easy to assume that a wine made from the Pinotage grape is going to taste like a Pinot Noir.
But …Surprise! Not so much.
A Pinotage often resembles a juicy Syrah. And it’s wonderful this time of year so you should definitely open a bottle — especially since October 8th is International Pinotage Day!
“And if you haven't tried Pinotage in the last five years, now is the time to pick up a bottle,” Christy Frank, owner of Frankly Wines in downtown Manhattan.
So here are five things you need to know about Pinotage and what’s changed.
1. It Was A Science Experiment.
The red grape was developed in 1925 by a South African viticulturist.
Abraham Perold wanted to create a Pinot Noir-type grape that could survive South Africa’s hot climate. So he crossed the diva Pinot Noir with a tougher Cinsault grape and out came the Pinotage.
It just didn’t have the characteristics of a delicate Pinot Noir wine. A Pinotage wine is deeply colored, high in tannins and has a decent amount of acidity. And instead of the red fruit aromas you get from a Pinot, you’ll get more black fruit and smoke even.
2. It’s Third Most Planted Grape in South Africa.
Still, it has become the third most planted red grape in South Africa, according to the Wines of South Africa, USA (WOSA). (One of our favorite white grapes, Chenin Blanc, is the first.)
And a huge part of that reason is because Pinotage has become a required component in all South African Cape Red blends. Those blends must be 30-70% Pinotage, according to the WOSA.
3. Thankfully It’s Reputation Has Changed.
In the past, Pinotage was used to make commercial wine, years ago so that gave grape a bad name. But it didn’t taste good either. Tasting notes often included “burnt rubber” as part of the description.
Thankfully, South African winemakers have amped up their viticulture practices, both in the vineyard and in the cellar, and figured out how to make this hybrid grape shine.
4. Pinotage Has Personality.
Because it is a big, deep, dense wine it pairs perfectly with big bold dishes. Think Indian curry, South African BBQ, sausage, and hard cheeses.
5. Wines to Impress Your Friends.
So what should you try?
“Kanonkop remains the gold standard for classic, structured ageable Pinotage,” says Frank. “They are one of the few producers that manage to get structure and tannins without extracting the classic, but disagreeable "wet dog/burnt rubber notes that have given the grape such a bad rap.”
She also suggests
So fully enjoy this Pinotage Day. Pour a glass and transport yourself to the other side of the globe.
Tracy Byrnes, former FOX Business Network anchor and host of “Wine with Me” for Foxnews.com, is editor-in-chief and chief contributor of The Sip.