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Pinotage — The Love Child of Pinot Noir & Cinsaut

Pinotage — a red wine grape that was bred in South Africa back in 1925 as a cross between pinot noir and cinsaut. Cinsaut was known as ‘hermitage’ in South Africa back in the days, hence the portmanteau name pinotage.

It was invented by Dr. Abraham Izak Perold, a South African chemist and viticulturist. He noticed how pinot noir struggled to thrive in South Africa’s harsh climates, and so he had the eureka moment to cross-breed it with another breed that was extremely productive, the cinsaut.

The ultimate goal was to create a wine as delicious as pinot noir, but also one that grew as well as cinsaut — and he succeeded! The pinotage had the best of both worlds, a combination of its parents’ virtues — classic pinot noir flavors with bountiful crops from sturdy, disease-resistant vines.

Dr. Abraham Izak Perold

The name is rather misleading as it is sounds similar to pinot noir, so therefore it is easy to assume that these 2 grapes taste alike. In fact, pinotage is more similar to shiraz in terms of its look and taste than pinot noir.

These grapes are tricky to cultivate as poor winemaking practices or storage conditions will downplay the quality and taste of the wine it produces. Another complaint is that it has the tendency to develop isoamyl acetate during winemaking, which leads to a kind of ‘sweet pungency’ that has been referred to as the smell of paint, or even rusty nails (as described by a group of unimpressed British Masters of Wine back in 1976).

These grapes are extremely delicate and volatile at the same time, which requires a lot of effort for it to grow into a lusciously beautiful vine. Wineries that manage to get it right will find themselves familiarizing with its versatility and will be able to create several wine types out of it, ranging from light to heavy-bodied ones.

Cape Dreams

One winery that has done pinotage a great deal of justice is Cape Dreams, that hail from the world-famous Robertson Valley in South Africa. It was founded in 1964 and has 600 hectares under vine.

Robertson is a town known as the ‘valley of wine and roses’, situated in the heart of the wine route, Route 62. It is just 140 kilometers from its capital, Cape Town.

Robertson Valley

Climate: It is characterized by cold winters and sunny summers, with an average annual rainfall of 350 to 400 millimeters. Although summer temperatures can get extremely high, there are south-easterly winds that have cooling effects on their vineyards. This enables their grapes to ripen evenly. On summer nights, a mist often shrouds the vineyards until late mornings. This relatively dry climate accompanied with breezes help keep pests at bay, which results in sparse spraying programs.

Soil: The soils in Robertson Valley are blessed with the highest limestone content in South Africa, which is extremely ideal for winemaking as this drives the pH structure required for a good fruity balance. The landscape there is flat along the river which gradually changes to rolling hills at the foot of the Langeberg Mountain. There are 2 dominant types of soil there — red clay loam and sandy alluvial soil, which both have good water retention and are ideal for the growth of high-quality grapes.

Food Pairings for Pinotage

When you are trying to match pinotage with food, you take cues from the sort of dishes that complement its parents; pinot noir and cinsaut.

Pinot noir, which has a more robust and rustic flavor goes well with dishes such as smoked duck and pulled pork. On the other hand, for cinsaut, its heritage gives it a compatibility with Mediterranean ingredients such as peppers and eggplants, and other rustic French bistro dishes such as lasagna.

If you are the type that appreciates subtler food dishes, you could pair your pinotage with charcuterie such as coarse country pâtés (mixture of ground meat and fat minced into a spreadable paste) and stews like the one-pot South African potjie.

Cape Dreams Pinotage

The Cape Dreams pinotage has an attractive deep ruby-red color and a full-bodied flavor. It offers a complex cultivar character, which mingles well with good oak woodiness. It can be appreciated young, but at the same time also has potential to develop further for a full-flavored spectrum. It is weighty and has the aroma of dark fruits and tar, with heavy tannins.

Pinotage wine might be one of the most underrated wines in the world, but it is alright, because you now know what it is all about. Our wines and spirits subsidiary, Marco’s Cellar, currently has its Cape Dreams pinotage wines out of stock as it is highly sought-after at the moment.

However, there are other wines and spirits still available on our site, so fret not — go check all of them out!


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