Looking for the perfect addition to your summer barbeque? Try a bottle of pinotage, the smoky and spicy South African hybrid that is earning a cult following among wine lovers. While South Africa produces beautiful Shiraz and Cab, Pinotage is truly a national specialty. The grape certainly has its critics, finding occasional notes of acetone and paint. But a great pinotage will exhibit distinctive spicy, earthy, and smoky flavors, but also have notes of cherry and lemon zest.
A hybrid of Pinot Noir and Cinsaut (formerly known as Hermitage, hence the portmanteau Pinotage), the grape was first developed in a lab in 1925 and first sold by the Stellenbosch Farmer’s Winery in 1959. Today the best Pinotage still comes from the Stellenbosch region, where it is incredibly easy to grow. Here are some of our favorites for you to sip at home!
BEYERSKLOOF Pinotage “Diesel” 2009 (Stellenbosch, South Africa) $70 is staunchly tannic, but wonderfully smooth on the tongue. With all the complexity of a great Burgundy, have a glass with steak or grilled mushrooms, and you’ll be a Pinotage convert for life.
Kanontop consistently produces some of South Africa’s best wine and affordable prices, and their KANONTOP Pinotage 2010 (Stellenbosch, South Africa) $37 is no exception. With notes of spice, banana, and lavender, the wine possesses beautiful clarity and a surprisingly creamy texture on the mid-palate.
For all you skeptics, try a Cape Blend, which comprises 30-70% Pinotage. KANONTOP “Kadette” Red 2011 (Stellenbosch, South Africa) $12 is an excellent option, and a bargain at that. 50% Pinotage, this blend keeps the grape’s signature smokiness, but gains complexity from the Cabernet Sauvignon and achieves a softer quality from the Merlot and Cabernet Franc.
So have a sip of South Africa, and discover all this surprising hybrid has to offer!
What’s your favorite South African red? Share with us below!