Wine Time: Simonsig Pinotage 2012

The first grape that comes to mind for many people when they think about South Africa is Pinotage. Then they ask, “What is Pinotage?”

That’s a good question because it is a widely misunderstood grape that can make great wine, but too often in the past made mediocre wine. The quality pendulum is swinging back now, and there are some great Pinotages available.

In fact, most of the Pinotages on the market are great, according to Jim Clark, market manager for Wines of South Africa. I met him in New Orleans at a masterclass on South African wines.

“It is a difficult grape to deal with, so many growers pulled out their Pinotage vines,” Clark said. “What’s left are the winemakers who have a feel for the grape and will take the time to make great wine.”

The Simsonsig certainly falls into the great category, at what I think is an extremely reasonable price. It is a rich, lush, full wine with plenty of elegance and finesse and no harshness.

It is a deep, inky red in the glass, with pleasant aromas of red berries and spice. On the palate, you get a lot of red cherry, plum and raspberry. The wine does not spend any time in oak barrels, so the tannins are muted.