Uniquely South African, Pinotage was developed in 1925 by Professor Abraham Izak Perold, by crossing Pinot Noir and Cinsuat (known as Hermitage then). The aim was to produce a grape varietal that combined the best qualities of the parents and adapted to South Africa’s growing conditions.
The first bottled Pinotage was Lanzerac in 1959 using the grapes from Kanonkop. It wowed the world when the 1989 Kanonkop Pinotage took centre stage at the 1991 International Wine & Spirit Competition, when then-winemaker Beyers Truter won the title of International Winemaker of the Year.
In 1995, Pinotage Association was established. The three pillars of the Association are experimentation, sharing of knowledge and marketing. Unfortunately, some producers overworked the grapes like it was Cabernet Sauvignon and made highly-extracted, heavy Pinotage with burnt rubber notes, drawing negative comments from consumers, wine critics and even winemakers.
According to Beyers, who eventually became Chairman of Pinotage Association, quality of Pinotage made a U-turn some 15 years ago when winemakers, both young and experienced, finally had a better grasp of the varietal. The new generation of winemakers are now taking this grape variety to the next level with different interpretations. Pinotage has never been so exciting!
Pinotage is now in a phase where winemakers are focussing on specialisation, diversity and authenticity. Thanks to the varied topography of the Cape Winelands, Pinotage has different expressions depending on whether it is planted close to the ocean or up in the mountains. Single vineyard Pinotage reflects the terroir while old vine Pinotage shows depth and elegance.
Pinotage is versatile and can be made into Cap Classique, rosé, easy-drinking red and serious age-worthy wine that can complement various cuisines. A lighter approach in cellars allows the wine to reveal more of the Pinot Noir characters, while suitable oak treatment adds a touch of power to the wine without being aggressive. Its agreeable tannins go well with the sauces and spices used in Chinese cooking, while its fruity flavour supports the spicy herbs in Southeast and South Asian dishes.
There is indeed a wide spectrum of Pinotage. Kanonkop and L’Avenir represent the classic style, while at the other end is the new-generation winemaker Jacques de Klerk from Reverie who makes the more elegant style of Pinotage. Spioenkop from the cool Elgin wine region has a different expression of the grape variety and Bellingham The Bernard Series Bush Vine Pinotage sits in middle of the spectrum.
The second Saturday of October is the annual Pinotage Day where South African wineries rally wine lovers to celebrate this unique South African wine. Grand Hyatt Hong Kong, together with Wines of South Africa (WOSA), is organising the first Hong Kong Pinotage dinner on 8th October (Saturday) pairing a 5-course meal from Steakhouse with five very different styles of Pinotage. Come explore this versatile grape variety with your friends. Wine list, menu and tickets available from here. Limited seats only.