Country: South Africa
Region: Coastal Region
Store: Portland Wine
Pinotage belongs very much to South Africa, just as Carmenere belongs to Chile and Tempranillo to Spain. Sure, other countries do grow these varietals, some with great success, but it is the home country of the individual grape that understands and is prepared to go to the lengths required to produce the desired effect.
Pinotage is a specifically engineered crossbreed between Pinot Noir and Hermitage, (also known as Cinsault). Cross breeding took place in South Africa in the 1920's with the aim of producing a grape that had the quality of Pinot Noir but with a more reliable yield. The first wines were produced around 1940 when the vines developed a maturity, generally recognised as suitable to produce high quality grapes. Pinotage has grown to become synonymous with South Africa however, it does not appeal to all tastes and attracts criticism for its ability to develop an overly chemical-like taste and smell, similar to acetone or pear-drops. This is not always an unpleasant taste but it does need managing carefully and effective control can be the difference between palate-bewildering, unbalanced flavours and a bloody good wine.
Very strong on the nose, the aroma in this bottle comes to meet you, rather than the other way round. Firstly and most powerfully is a vegetal and smoky smell which has a backwash of acetone. At the same time, there is an undercurrent of overripe fruits; blackberry, cassis and damson. The taste is full bodied and surprisingly smooth. The vegetal influence dominates the start but allows fresh, red fruit tastes to come through, although they struggle to compete with the raw earthen feel. The effect of the mild but grippy tannins are felt most in the aftertaste where they help to provide a long and sustained note. This wine is far from unpleasant but may take you by surprise.
The full bodied structure makes this a great contender with food and red meats bind the tannin proteins well, allowing the fruits to open up more and give an almost caramel-like smoothness to the texture. If you are the sort of person to reach for an Argentinian Malbec to go with your steak, give this puppy a try instead.
Portland Wines have several stores in the South Manchester/Cheshire area and can be found at www.portlandwine.co.uk