Outsiders are often fascinated by unusual examples of food and drink that some regions of the world embrace as their own, whether it is scrapple in Delaware, poutine in Montreal – or Pinotage wine in South Africa.
Most wine lovers who have delved into wines from around the world have heard the story about how a Stellenbosch professor in 1925 created Pinotage by crossing the elegant Pinot Noir and the rough-and-tumble Cinsault, like a ballet dancer falling in love with a dock worker.
Since then, the wine has had its lovers and haters, with the lovers trying to round out its rough edges and win over the haters. In her Oxford Companion entry, Jancis Robinson states the case for and against Pinotage rather succinctly:
“Although often scorned, even in the Cape, as a coarse red with a flamboyantly sweetish paint-like pungency, it has increasingly produced rich, long-lasting, deep colored wines whose wild fruitiness has been tamed by time and good oak.”
This issue of The Dozen features three Pinotages, all properly tamed.
2021 Bread & Butter California Pinot Grigio ($14). Typical floral Grigio with a hint of earthiness.
2016 Château Doisy-Daëne Barsac (375 ml. $25). Lovely mulled aromas of honey, beeswax, and peach marmalade that appear brighter and fresher on the palate with viscous, honeyed flavors.
2020 Theorem Moon Mountain Sauvignon Blanc (48). A lovely wine – rounded without being fat, with some of the green Marlborough fruitiness, but also with creamy, lightly oaked flavors and some banana notes.
2020 Theorem Moon Mountain Chardonnay ($58). Moderate balance of fruit – mainly apple and stony minerality – and toasty oak.
2021 Our Daily Wines “Our Daily Cab” California Cabernet Sauvignon ($9). Very pleasant, with creamy cherry fruit (think cherry yogurt) with a few savory hints.
2021 Our Daily Wines “Our Daily Red” California Red Wine ($9). A bit like a traditional Côtes du Rhones – red cherry fruit, a slight earthy tanginess, and good, crisp acidity.
2016 Château Puyanché Francs Côtes de Bordeaux Rouge ($12). An enjoyable but basic Bordeaux, with good mature fruit and bacon notes, modest weight, a little tight.
2021 Trapiche “Oak Cask” Mendoza Malbec ($12). Enjoyable but light, with crisp fruitiness, a few savory notes, and lots of dusty tannins.
2020 Trapiche “Medalla” Mendoza Cabernet Sauvignon ($21). Refreshing tanginess, blackberry and cherry flavors with lean and slightly meaty, savory finish – quite enjoyable.
2020 TAJ Swartland Pinotage ($22). Richly complex red fruitiness, on the tannic side, with dry, woody notes and a hint of bitters.
2020 De Grendel “Amandelboord” Cape of Good Hope Pinotage ($23). Quite enjoyable with ripe fruitiness of red raspberries and mulberries and loads of dusty tannins.
2019 Kanonkop Simonsberg-Stellenbosch Pinotage ($54). Cherry flavors with rich, savory tannins – a tight wine needing age but still giving a lot of present flavors.
Prices listed are generally SRP or from wine-searcher.com. As more wineries are now shipping direct-to-consumer, check the winery website if you can’t find a bottle in your retail store.