Pinotage is South Africa's signature red wine grape. A gutsy cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault rarely found anywhere else in the world, Pinotage is a one-of-a-kind rustic red wine that is earthy, fruit-driven and perfect for pairing with all sorts of barbecue.
Known and either loved or loathed as South Africa's famous red wine grape varietal, Pinotage is the direct result of a somewhat unusual cross. Pinot Noir and Cinsault (as it's known in France) or "Hermitage" (as the same grape is referred to in South Africa) were successfully crossed in 1925 at Stellenbosch University. The intention of the cross was most likely to capture and expand upon Pinot Noir's delicate elegance and Cinsault's hardy nature. The result was a new red wine grape that not only blends the two grapes together but also combines their names.
Styles of Pinotage
Pinotage may carry a dramatic spectrum of styles. This type of wine can range from a fairly cheap, light-bodied red wine with some funky aromas (including extremes such as acetone, paint, rubber, and at times banana) all the way to full-bodied red wines with balance, elegance, fully developed black fruit flavors, and an enduring, sweet, smokey finish.
In general, much of the Pinotage on the market tends to take a rustic profile and often shows earth-driven notes on both the nose and the palate, followed by dark berries, smoke, and stout tannins (when left untamed, thanks to the grape's super thick skins), while leaning a little lower on the acidity scale in its natural state. With a potentially volatile palate profile like that, people tend to have a "love it or hate it" relationship with Pinotage. If you fall into the "love it" camp, then this wine can be a fairly flexible food pairing partner, showing exceptionally well with the likes of game, steak, brats, burgers, and pizza.
As the entire South African wine scene has made great strides in both quality and value, Pinotage has piggy-backed on the upward trend and continues to gain momentum and popularity with consumers looking to branch out a bit and take on a new red grape. This is the perfect wine to toss into the cart when you are ready to bust out of your habitual wine buying habits. Offering a sip of the rugged, rural viticulture scene of South Africa's gorgeous landscapes, Pinotage can be a welcome change to your wine routine.
Pinotage Producers to Try
A number of Pinotage producers to look for include A.A. Badenhorst, Diemersfontein, Graham Beck, Kanonkop, Ken Forrester, L'Avenir, MAN Vintners, Simonsig, Southern Right, and Stellenrust. Pinotage can often be found in larger wine stores, especially in stores that include South African wines. Many online wine vendors also sell a variety of Pinotage wines. Generally, Pinotage prices vary based on the producer and vintage but are usually available in a wide array of price points.