2013 Pinotage wines show muscle and grace from the starting blocks

Thursday, 20 June, 2013
MediaVision Communications
Industry predictions of a healthy grape harvest for 2013 leading to wines of exceptional flavour and good structure proved to be on par, with the Pinotage Association's annual tasting of young Pinotage wines showing varietal characteristic flavour expression and developed palate weight.
Some 14 wines from all of South Africa’s major Pinotage-producing regions were shown to producers, marketers and the media, and although all wines were still "works in progress" of barely four months old, the tasting underscored Pinotage's ability to express varietal character at an early age and to develop elegance and finesse at an early stage.

"The harvest of 2013 took place under diverse weather conditions," said De Wet Viljoen, Vice Chairman of the Pinotage Association. "Conditions were as ideal as could be in Robertson and the Breedekloof, while those closer to Cape Town, such as Stellenbosch, Wellington and Durbanville, had to contend with rain and wind. All-in-all production was of a level which pleased the accountants, and looking at the wines, the winemakers can feel happy too."

During the tasting it was evident that South Africa's Pinotage producers are a dynamic and curious bunch. A lot of experimentation with different types and grains of oak was being done, and the traditional recipe of pulling the wine from the skins after a quick five to seven day ferment was not being adhered to. Ten to 15 days on the skins was common, with one Simonsberg producer pushing his to 42 days.

Add to this the fact that some Pinotages were receiving no wood at all, and one thing was for sure - the tasting of these 14 kindergarten Pinotages was not a boring affair. Wines ranged from lean and muscular offerings to those showing a rich perfume and supple structure, with the odd big-bodied blockbuster also making an appearance.

According to Francois Naudé, well-known Pinotage producer and honorary member of the Pinotage Association, certain aspects stood-out at this year's young wine tasting. "We are seeing that areas delivering high grape yields are able to produce excellent wines," he said. "This shows that our viticulturalists are really getting to grips with the variety and forming an ideal balance between the Pinotage volumes required by the local and international markets and the quality the South African industry needs to maintain its reputation for producing fine Pinotage wines."

Naudé loved what he was seeing in terms of diversity in the styles. "Look, it is all undoubtedly Pinotage what we are tasting," he said. "But is the variation not exciting - especially as the variety is discernible among a line-up of wines which are still in their nappies."

He attributes the diversity to the youthful spirit among the country’s Pinotage producers. "Because Pinotage is such a young variety in the world of grape varieties, we are not going to see the final chapter on the grape written in our lifetimes," he said. "The winemakers thus know they can experiment and push the envelope with various cellar techniques and as consumers we benefit from this variety in Pinotage that adds spice to a winelovers life."

According to Naudé, elegance in structure and beautiful rich colours characterise the 2013 vintage at this stage. "Some wood is still noticeable, but any excessive traces will blow off by the time the wines reach the market," he says. "And is that not something to look forward to!"