ABSA Top Ten Pinotage: Best of the best

Demand for South Africa's Pinotage wines is still growing internationally due to a combination of quality and the unique selling point that it is our homegrown red wine cultivar.
In 2008 Pinotage was South Africa's third largest export by volume of packaged natural red wines, to 112 different countries.

The icons of the Cape Wineland's Pinotage wines are the annual winners of the Absa Top 10 Pinotage Competition and those wines are usually top sellers. The 2009 results were announced on 27 August, five of the winning wines came from well matured masters of Pinotage and five were first-time winners in this competition.

Kanonkop entered their eighth Top 10 Pinotage wine and Beyerskloof their fifth, while KWV (Cathedral Cellar), Longridge and Windmeul each entered their second Top 10 Pinotage winner. The new Pinotage masters on the scene are Altydgedacht, Flagstone, Lyngrove, Onyx and Viljoensdrift.

Kanonkop has now entered the most Top 10 winners since the inaugural competition in 1997, and Beyerskloof the fourth most.

The 2009 Absa Top 10 Pinotage wines are (in alphabetical order):  
  • Altydgedacht Pinotage 2008 (Durbanville)
  • Beyerskloof Diesel Pinotage 2007 (Stellenbosch)
  • Cathedral Cellar Pinotage 2006 (Coastal)
  • Flagstone Writer's Block Pinotage 2007 (Worcester vineyards)
  • Kanonkop Pinotage 2005 (Simonsberg-Stellenbosch)
  • Longridge Pinotage 2007 (Stellenbosch)
  • Lyngrove Platinum Pinotage 2007 (Stellenbosch)
  • Onyx Pinotage 2006 (Darling)
  • Viljoensdrift River Grandeur 2008 (Robertson)
  • Windmeul Reserve Pinotage 2008 (Paarl)
The 139 entries received for this year's competition is second only to the record 148 entries received for the 2007 competition. It represents a growth of 190% in the number of entries since the competition was launched in 1997. Following last year's single entry from California, there were three entries from New Zealand this year, which serves as confirmation that the competition is also drawing international participants.

Of this year's Top 10 Pinotage wines, four are from the 2007 vintage, three from the 2008 vintage, two from the 2006 vintage and one from the 2005 vintage, while eight of this year's ten runners-up are also from the 2007 vintage. These results prove that Pinotage can show absolute top quality after only one or two years in the bottle, while it can also mature further and reach its peak after four to five years. As predicted at the annual Pinotage Vintage Tasting two years ago, the 2007 vintage produced excellent Pinotage wines.

Stellenbosch once again maintained its reputation as prime terroir for Pinotage by delivering four of this year's Top 10 Pinotage wines, while the rest are wines of origin Coastal, Darling, Durbanville, Paarl, Robertson and Worcester (although Flagstone is based in Stellenbosch, the grapes came from vineyards in Worcester).

This was the thirteenth Absa Top 10 Pinotage Competition and the sponsorship has also increased drastically in this time. Besides the sponsorship money, Absa also plays a major role in exposing South Africa's unique red wine to local and international clients.

"We have seen the standards and quality of Pinotage raise dramatically in the last few years. Our involvement in the Absa Top 10 Pinotage Competition was initially intended to help wine-makers improve the quality of the wine and to create benchmarks to which to aspire to. Today, wines that make it into the top 10 have gone on to become benchmarks in the industry. The quality of the wine has improved to such an extent that being part of the Top 20 is now also being considered a significant achievement," says James Slabbert, Managing Executive of Absa Corporate and Business Bank.

The judges for the 2008 Absa Top 10 Pinotage Competition were Duimpie Bayly (convener), Francois Naudé, Allan Cheesman, Neil Pendock, Wendy Burridge, Chris Roux and Gert Boerssen.

The ten runners-up out of the twenty finalists (in alphabetical order):
  • Cathedral Cellar Pinotage 2007
  • DeWaal Top of the Hill Pinotage 2007
  • Diemersfontein Carpe Diem Pinotage 2007
  • Fort Simon Pinotage 2006, Kanonkop Pinotage 2006
  • Lesebo Pinotage 2007
  • Simonsig Redhill Pinotage 2007
  • Stellenzicht Cellarmaster's Release Pinotage 2007
  • The Bernard Series Bush Vine Pinotage 2007
  • Wildekrans Barrel Selection Pinotage 2007
Presentation packages of the 2009 Absa Top 10 Pinotage wines will soon be available for sale through the Wine-of-the-Month-Club. Tel: (021) 657-8100 or e-mail wineclub@wineofthemonth.co.za.

For further information regarding Pinotage and the South African Pinotage Association, visit the Association's website www.pinotage.co.za.