WEST COAST WINOS PINOTAGE EVENT 2019
The mechanics of the event
The W.C.W. is a bunch of wine lovers who meet monthly and taste wines that are interesting and relevant. Each month sees a different cultivar chosen or a theme such as cool climate wines. Being Pinotage month it was an ideal opportunity to sip some of the great examples of this truly South African wine.
The selection of the wines is extremely unscientific and based on the whims and interpretation of the good South African Pinotage,convener Trevor Gray (author of this post). For this I make no apologies!This random process is however grounded on competition results, personal observations, feedback from members as well as reputations earned by producers over many years,
it is seldom coincidence that certain wineries are recognized for their excellence or that their wines are showcased accordingly. The ABSA Top 20 offers a good insight into great South African Pinotage.
All wines are blind tasted and generally tasted from light to heavy. Scoring is informal though a 20 point system is encouraged with a Bronze 14-16 (B) Silver 16-18 (S) Gold 19 +(G)
As the club is fun, I try to not get too caught up in technicalities and seek honest unpretentious opinions from all members. There is an easy drinking example of the cultivar offered on arrival and the event commences with a brief explanation of the cultivar, the selection criteria (if any) and the scoring. The availabilty of good South African Pinotage is a pleasure for all.
We generally taste 3 wines at a time and are unveiled accordingly, and it is left to members to comment on the wine. It is of value for me to understand the likes and dislikes of members and this low key feedback helps. I assist members that are new to the environment of tasting with basic tips and hints.
This inevitably results in a comfortable learning process or validation of their wine analytical skills with interaction of other members. The nature of wine appreciation is dependent on each person and I seek to demystify and slay the snobbishness of winespeak.
Fortunately we are blessed with good South African examples of Pinotage which allows all to appreciate this unique grape.
PINOTAGE THE GREAT!
There are certain areas of the Cape who produce great grapes for making good wine. Wherever possible, examples of wine from these areas are selected in order to offer a glimpse of sense of place and terroir.
The wine growing regions of South Africa
In this instance, wines from Swartland (3) Durbanville (2) Stellenbosch (3) Paarl (1) Bot River (1) Breedekloof (1)
This was in fact a tough task to find a good balance, due to there being some many really good wines. I also had to “drop” a couple of wines purely due to having featured them in both previous Pinotage events.
Vintage variation is inevitable and it was heartening to see that 2017 and 2018 were very good years. It is worth noting that these were drought typical and the likelihood of smaller grapes/juice for vinification has resulted in a upward movement of prices of wine which offsets the quality of the juice. Some wines though good will definitely benefit from a little more bottle rest.
Older vintages are drinking exceptionally well. This is extremely heartening as the improvement of time allows Pinotage lovers the luxury of resting some of their favorites.
The typical characteristics is inevitably rich rubyesque color, with red berries, plum and cassis prevalent. The soft application of wood allows a fruit driven elegance which is desirable in my opinion.
The wines selected this time round deliberately excluded the choc/coffee option. This was done to try and stay true to the essence of the grape.
The popularity of the Diemersfontein Pinotage is undiminished and remains a favorite though not flighted, members commented on it’s absence.
The lighter styles of wine have a solid base of red fruit and the lack of acetone/ripe banana suggests that there is a good understanding for the need for quaffing wine which Pinotage is renowned for.
The question was asked as to what wine would members choose as their best on the night and it was pretty evenly spread among the top 3.
The scoring was extremely tight when it came to top honors/gold.
- The best showing wine on the night came as a surprise to some which was the Beyerskloof Reserve 2016. A wine which is drinking really well and is great value for the price, the follow up vintage is also recommended.
- Following close behind was the Simonsig Red Hill 2016. Top notch and well integrated wine which has won numerous awards and medals. This wine is possibly a more serious wine for big occasions?
- The Wildekrans Barrel Reserve 2014. Possibly the most expensive wine but a wine of elegance and X factor. The fact that this wine was tasted directly after supper, may possibly have cost it the best on the night award! My personal favorite.
- Diemersdal Reserve 2018. Difficult to believe that this is a 2018 vintage, another contender for wine of the night, possibly missed out by being a touch young. This is a wine to seek out and buy for the future.
- Flagstone The Writers Block 2017. This is another victim of youth. Exceptional wine which hails from over the mountain. Very close second in my scoring!
The difference between Gold and silver was extremely small and vintage certainly played a role. The wines were a little more adventurous and also had a X factor that intrigued many members.
- Kasteelberg 2016 from Riebeek cellars was a revelation for me, full and powerful wine that will appeal to many, well worth a try!
- Brink Swartland Pinotage 2016. A well balanced wine with a playful edge.
- Diemersfontein Carpe Diem 2017. The previous vintage scored Gold and the wine though drinking well could certainly benefit from a little longer in the bottle. Consistently solid performer!
- Diemersfontein The Prodigy 2018. A new edition to the family that was well received by members. Once again, a little rest in the bottle will make this a go to wine that slots in above the more coffee Pinotage.
- Landskroon Pinotage 2017. This was a wine that has improved significantly from our last event. I really enjoyed this wine which is a pocket friendly.
- Spier 21 Gables 2015. I was not sure about this wine and neither were the members. It was clearly well made but lacking when up against the others. In hindsight the Creative Block 3 would have been a better option.
A winery worth a special mention – DIEMERSFONTEIN – Wellington.
This estate is nestled in the foothills of Wellington and has for the past decade and more been a trendsetter for the phenomenal cult which is Coffee Pinotage.
The winery is however no one trick pony with a wide range of wines that offer good honest enjoyment ranging from Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec ( my favorite ) Merlot, Shiraz, a red blend as well as a pot still brandy. The Carpe Diem range is apt as they really have seized the day and offers quality across the range.
They also produce gorgeous white wines which include a Rose’ though not red or white, is a summer essential, classic styled Chenin Blanc, Sauvignon Blanc and Viognier as well as a friendly bubbly called Ovation that never disappoints and is very quaffable either at lunch or around the pool.
The winery also has impeccable empowerment credentials with the Thokazani brand majority owned by staff members (80%) The farm is host to the very popular Pinotage on Tap festival and have a vibrant restaurant, art gallery, accommodation, tasting room and a friendly disposition which makes them a must visit venue in the Boland.
WILDEKRANS – Bot River
I must confess that I am a fan boy of this pioneering winery. A little off the beaten track of sexy Elgin and the rarified Hemel en Aarde valley, this bunch of passionate folk have embraced both Pinotage and the opportunity to grow Pinot Noir due to the cooler climate adjacent to Walker Bay. Their Shiraz is not too shabby either!
They are however the only producer to grow Pinotage in the area which affords them the pioneer label. All their wines are exceptional and their striving for a worthwhile cellar door experience is worth the slight detour.
Other good South African Pinotage worthy of consideration
- Altydgedacht. This wine was showcased last time out and impressed.
- Lanzerac. Another wine we tried and enjoyed last time round.
- Kaapzicht Steytler. Would have loved to include this wine!
- Flagstone Truth Tree Pinotage. A well priced example of a Pinotage.
- Kanonkop. Sadly they do not support wine clubs.
- De Grendel Amandelboord, multiple gold medal winner. Say no more!
- Windmeul, impossible to get hold of the farm for inclusion. My bad!
- Overhex The Survivor.
- Bloemendal. Supple and refined cool climate wine which I enjoy.
- Fort Simon. Featured previously and was enjoyed by all!
- Look out for collaboration with Checkers and Woolworths for well priced and exceptional wines. Diemersfontein especially.
Value for money
- Riebeek Cellars Collection R70 RRP
- Alvis Drift R60 RRP
- Slowine –Villiersdorp R5O RRP
- Jakkalsvlei R80
# All the above is the personal observations and opinion of the author, combined with feedback of members. Golden Cape Tours runs wine trips to some of the wineries and it is inevitable that some preferences/prejudice will be apparent?No apologies!