Saturday, April 17, 2010

Tasting Notes: Pinotage

Brad Post:
Hailed as South Africa’s own wine grape, Pinotage, a genetic cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut/Hermitage (frequently used as a blending grape to build powerful southern Rhone reds), was last night’s wine selection. Efforts to locate this elusive, at least in eastern Iowa, proved to be a challenge but finally my A-team of wine sleuths discovered three for our tasting.
1. Westerland (2006) Pinotage, South Africa. (Source: Hy Vee, Cost: $10.99, Alc., 14%).
Very low intensity ruby tinted with a noticeable rim variation and thick, long lasting viscosity.  Very little fruit was evident but there were earthy notes of gravel, dusty roads, oak and butter.  On the palate this wine displayed a short taste of blackberry up front followed by a nice amount of oakiness.  Little tannin and lightly astringent.  A mild medicinal quality reminiscent of antiseptic lingered post-swallow.  After a few minutes we were able to detect a pronounced coffee scent.  An okay wine.  Recommended with reservations.
2. Warwick (2006) Pinotage, Stellenbosh, South Africa. (Source: Hy Vee, Cost: $19.99, Alc., 14.5%).
All three wines were of low to moderately low intensity.  Ruby clear with thick, long lasting legs and moderate rim variation. On the nose this Pinotage opened up with rich fruit aromas of prune and processed fruit; followed by oak, vanilla, and buttery scents. Nice.  My palate was pleasantly surprised when an array of yumminess arrived across my tongue, first with fruit, then smoky wafts of oak, vanilla, spice, and maybe a dash of soy.  A slightly aggressive dose of tannin and a gorgeously mouth filling medium bodied wine that sent waves of flavor and minerality on for a long time.  Nice balance.  A winner!  Highly Recommended.
3. Westerland (2005) Pinotage, South Africa. (Source: Hy Vee, Cost: $10.99, Alc., 14%).
Garnet hued wine with an orange-brown rim variation. First sniffs reveal little else other than a barnyard or wool aroma.  Not a terrible odor but definitely an opinionated wine.  No fruit.  My palate was clobbered with smoke, spice, leather and potent tannins.  Drying. The astringency was quite aggressive and coated my mouth.  Lacks complexity.  Recommended with reservations.
Post-Tasting Notes:  This was a good tasting.  Despite my criticisms all three wines were pretty good!  The two Westerland wines (note the different vintages) were recommended with reservations, not because I hated any of them, but because our group of four were split between them to take the second place finish.  The Warwick was by far the best of the three!  You can always tell the favorites by how quickly the bottles empty after our formal tasting.  Warwick was first to go!
One final comment.  About midway through the tasting one of our evaluators stated what I had been thinking: “doesn’t this (Pinotage) remind you of Marechal Foch?”  Yes, it did!  Marechal Foch is one of the wine grapes growers in cold-climates cultivate and frequently is at the bad end of many jokes because of its aggressive personality (e.g., earthy qualities, leather, tobacco).  Interesting.


  1. Warwick makes quality wines indeed, but of all South African Pinotages I would go with Kanonkop. Have you had? Reigns supreme in my book.

  2. Hi There,

    Nice comparison. We're launching our site next month and Warwick is on our USA list. Maybe we can push for Kanonkop too :) Please do keep an eye out for us. If you have any South African wines you'd really like to see in the USA please please do let us know and we'll make a plan :)

    Warm regards

  3. Hi Allan & Jen,

    Thanks for your thoughts. Unfortunately, in the central part of the U.S. (east central Iowa) SA wines are very challenging to find, so no, we weren't able to taste the Kanonkop.

    Keep us (Two Wine Brothers) posted if you find any other excellent wines we should give a try.

    Take care,