A look at the South African Pinotage

Just as Zinfandel is often referred to as “America’s Wine,” Pinotage occupies that same position as South Africa’s signature variety.

It was created there in 1925 by Abraham Izak Perold, the first Professor of Viticulture at Stellenbosch University. But, just exactly what is Pinotage wine? It is a cross between Pinot Noir and Hermitage grapes, thus the name Pinotage.

The goal was to produce a grape which could withstand the South African heat, yet be made into wine with robust and complex flavors. When trying a Pinotage, expect to find a deep red wine with smoky, bramble (blackberry type) and earthy flavors. Pinotage is often blended with other wines in addition to being made into fortified (Port style) wine and even red sparkling wine.

Let’s take a 16-year leap forward to 1941 when both the first Pinotage wine was produced and the first commercial planting of Pinotage grapes occurred. The wine was produced at Elsenburg Agricultural College where the grapes were being grown experimentally. First mention of Pinotage on a wine label took another 20 years, occurring in 1961 on the Lanzerac wine produced by the Stellenbosch Farmers’ Winery.

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