An adventurous spirit searching for balance

Monday, 15 July, 2013
Keelyn Crowley
Pinotage is a daring wine enjoyed by adventurous people; it is not a traditional red wine. Its South African roots give it a unique provenance, and local winemakers have to work hard to create wines that harness the distinctive qualities of the grape while appealing to global palates.
It is not possible to simply put Pinotage in a barrel and leave it to mature like some more traditional varietals. Pinotage needs to be cared for; it needs constant attention to tame its wild spirit and create a wine that has complexity and richness. Winemakers often construct a more layered wine by using oak and fermenting the grapes in separate barrels using different techniques to bring specific components to the final product.

Another technique is to use other varietals to balance Pinotage (for example, Shiraz can be used instead of oak). It is the perfect blending partner. Either way, it is a wine that searches for a mate to bring equilibrium: either through maturation, blending or through food.

Pinotage only truly sings when paired with the right kind of food; that with a rustic style to meet the wine’s wilder nature. So no cultured, fussy cuisine for Pinotage – the dishes need to be earthy, smoky or spiced such as braaied Karoo lamb or game, or incorporating Cape Malay or Moroccan/Turkish-style spices.

Pinotage has excellent aging potential and super consistency year after year. Spier’s 21 Gables Pinotage is produced from a single vineyard in Faure, close to Spier. It is created in a distinctive style, which is determined both by the winemaking technique and the fact that the vineyard is unusually close to the ocean, benefiting from the cool False Bay breezes.

Year-on-year, Spier’s top-tier Pinotage delivers consistency and quality. Last year, the 21 Gables Pinotage 2010 was named one of the top ten Pinotage wines in South Africa in the prestigious ABSA Pinotage Top 10 competition. The annual competition is organised by the Pinotage Association in order to promote the varietal. Its aim is to identify ten wines that serve as benchmark for the development of distinctive South African Pinotage, and illustrate the uniqueness of Pinotage in the international wine world.

Spier Cellar Master, Frans Smit has been invited to join the judging panel at the ABSA Pinotage Top 10 competition this year. Along with his team – including senior red winemaker Johan Jordaan and viticulturist Johann Smit – he is a winemaker renowned for his distinctive interpretation of Pinotage.

Enjoying a good bottle of Pinotage when visiting South Africa has become as customary as drinking good vodka in Russia. And for South Africans passionate about their heritage, Pinotage offers a more adventurous alternative to other red wines. It is a conversation piece for dinner parties – SA-style with friends, laughter and gemsbok on the braai, or a sizzling pot of curry on the stove.