June 16-South African Pinotage

I know many of you may not have heard of Pinotage before, and honestly, finding a bottle that represents the grape in a favorable manner isn’t always an easy task! Pinotage is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault. (Cinsault is a dark red blending grape from Southern France.) It is the main red grape variety produced in South Africa (and rarely found outside of South Africa). Early attempts to grow Pinot Noir were not as successful as vintners had hoped but this crossing has produced a very dark red grape that is quite virulent. This virulence led to mass production of substandard wines for decades. This shows in the wine if you smell nail polish remover upon opening it. In the last two decades, a handful of major wine producers have joined forces to decrease the crop yields which is leading to improved fruit and wine quality. These changes to attention have also cut the acetone odor that unfortunately became a varietal identifier for a prolonged period of time. 

Pinotage is a great summertime wine because it compliments barbecued foods, especially those with a little char, very nicely. Vegetarians can rejoice as well because this list of foods includes meaty portobellos. When I attempted to decide on this week’s pairing, I narrowed it to beef kabobs (beef could be substituted for portobello chunks) or all meat pizza cooked on my Traeger. Pinotage has lush tannins that are limited in perception by high fat contents in foods. It also has a slight notes of smoke, which is the key pairing it with barbecued foods. If you’re a hunter, it would be great with game meats as well. Oxtail stew or beef pot pie would carry it into wintertime for year round enjoyment! 

The bottle I selected this week is a 2018 Neethlingshof The Owl Post Pinotage. It is an estate grown (meaning all of the fruit comes from the estate, not off site vineyards), reasonably priced bottle. Upon pouring it, the inky, deep ruby purple color was immediately apparent. The wine was nearly opaque. It stained the sides of my wine glass as swirled it. The smells of vanilla, smoke, black cherry, baking spices (cinnamon and nutmeg), small wild blackberries, and black currants eminated from the glass. I paired it with an all meat pizza from Papa Murphy’s. Cooking it on the traeger increased the smoky flavors. The wine had hints of black and red cherries, black currants, vanilla, butter, smoke, leather, and cinnamon. When tasting the wine on it’s own, the tannins were markedly astringent. However, when paired with the pizza, the wine took on a texture similar to water. This quality was made all the more dangerous considering the alcohol content was over 14%! The wine lingers on the palate evolving into mocha after a minute or two. Overall, this wine is a wonderful change of pace if you need something new to bring to a barbecue this summer or if you are having cassoulet or osso bucco this winter. It would also be heavenly if paired with a molten lava chocolate cake! 


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