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Prince Albert
Sunday, April 14, 2024
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Wine Time with Aaron the Wine Guy

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Hello Prince Albert! Every country has what is called a point of difference. This is essentially a wine style or varietal that sets them apart from every other wine-producing area in the world.

For example, New Zealand is known for its Sauvignon Blanc, Australia for its rich Shiraz, California for Cabernet Sauvignon and Germany is known for Riesling. The list goes on and on but this week we are taking a quick look at a grape varietal called Pinotage.

Pinotage is unique for several reasons, including its flavor profile (often concentrated and jammy with hints of tar or truffle) and also for how it was created. The Pinotage varietal is an interspecies crossing of two specific grapes; pinot noir and cinsault. The seeds were first planted in 1925 and finally, grapes from this new varietal were first harvested around 1941.

The name Pinotage comes from the varietal cinsault (originally called Hermitage in South Africa) and Pinot Noir, thus Pinotage. When the grape was first introduced, it was often scorned for its range of new world flavors (South African wine enthusiasts preferred old world flavors at the time). Pinotage struggled as a new varietal and wine drinkers were not exactly smitten with the style of the grape.

Pinotage carried a bad reputation for many years and was considered a lesser grape in South Africa since it often has scents of acetone or paint. In higher quality bottles, the smell of acetone transforms into more pleasant dank-like smells of tar or rich earth (compost).

Incredibly enough, after many years of bad press, Pinotage is now the most valuable grape in South Africa with its wines fetching the highest prices in auctions. The collectability of Pinotage makes it a good investment but skip the entry-level options and go for the good stuff.

This week, we take a look at two Pinotage wines; One is from a large, general area known as the Western Cape which is a large region encompassing many smaller areas of production. Here, a phenomenon known as the “Cape Doctor” cools grapes with a Western wind blowing into the vineyards from the ocean. The Spier Pinotage is an entry-level wine that has some basic charms and will be ideal with barbequed foods.

The other bottle is a fantastic example called Diesel made by Beyerskloof in the Stellenbosch region. This area is known for producing exceptional old world wines and creates first class versions of Syrah, Cabernet Sauvignon, Petit Verdot and of course, Pinotage. It should be noted that the price of Diesel has increased heavily over the years and while my bottle was over $75, it usually sells for over $100 these days. Get your hands on some Pinotage and have a taste! Here are my wine picks of the week!
Spier Pinotage 2019: (W.O. Western Cape, South Africa). Dry red, deep ruby color with violet tones. This SA red has a fruity nose of ripe dark and red berries, raspberry, blackberry, brambleberry and vanilla with hints of pepper or baking spice. For its alcohol content, the wine is surprisingly light in body. Dark fruits (plum) and red fruit are dominant on the quick mid palate with medium tannins while black pepper and warming spice come in on the medium-length finish. The wine tastes good but it lacks complexity and concentration. Hints of yeast or bread can also be tasted here and there throughout. Plum, black pepper and smooth oak flavors linger. Quite tart at medium-plus acidity but very food friendly and affordable. Entry-level Pinotage that is still worth the price of admission. Good! $18, 14.5% ABV

Beyerskloof Diesel Pinotage 2016: (Stellenbosch, South Africa). Dry red, deep ruby color. The complex bouquet opens with intense notes of concentrated brambleberry, raspberry, black pepper, tarry jam, barnyard, leather, truffle, compost and gunpowder smoke. The earthy, dark fruit flavor carries onto the palate with silky blackberry, engine oil, bittersweet cocoa, vinous grape stem and flint strike smoke. Medium-plus body with medium acidity and a long finish of black licorice, dark earth, concentrated fruit and spice. As the wine breathes and warms, further complexity is revealed (this wine benefits greatly from decanting); tobacco leaf, cigar box, leather and exotic spice. Tannins are high but jammy creating a satisfying mouthfeel. This is a phenomenal pairing wine to be tasted with cigars, olives, hard cheeses (Pecorino), braised short ribs or charcuterie. Will benefit from further aging. Outstanding! $75, 14.5% ABV

Cheers and thanks for reading!