While the outstanding quality red wines of the 2001 crop are keenly anticipated, the country’s leading producers of Pinotage have expressed a strong motion of confidence. Going from strength to strength, this variety is winning awards and eliciting international interest.

Following a tasting of young Pinotages from 16 cellars in various viticultural regions, Pinotage producers believe that it is likely to be the best vintage in 30 years for this cultivar.

The tasting of wines from the 2001 vintage was presented by the Pinotage Association in Stellenbosch and attended by about 80 winemakers, viticulturists and wine experts. Since these are still young wines that require further maturation before ending up in the bottle, most of the wines presented by the winemakers were tank and barrel samples.

Beyers Truter, internationally acknowledged winemaker from Kanonkop and chairman of the Association, said: “As far as Pinotage is concerned, one can compare 2001 in certain regions with exceptional red wine years such as 1974, 1986, 1991 and 1995. Pinotage ripens earlier than other red wine varieties and in most regions the grapes were pressed early in February, thus avoiding the worst part of the late heat wave. This was preceded by a very cool growing season, with lovely Pinotage fruit flavours developing in the grapes. The prominent ripeness and sweet fruitiness, combined with rounded complexity, make Pinotage this year almost perfect,” said Beyers.

One of the regions boasting a particularly high quality Pinotage crop this year, is Walker Bay (Grabouw to Hermanus). According to Niels Verburg of Beaumont Wines near Bot River, the reason for this is that climatic conditions occurring in October, November and December were the most stable the last five years, while the extensive heatwave that affected most regions from the second week in February, hardly touched this region. The temperature soared to just over 30 degrees Celsius, while in other areas it was higher.

“The general feeling is that our Pinotage wines have a more subtle flavour spectrum than the usual ripe banana and sweet fruitiness, with spicy aromas on the nose and in the mouth,” Niels said.

The Pinotage vintage tasting was offered for the third time this year so that winemakers could evaluate the quality of the Pinotage wines resulting from the year’s crop and exchange thoughts on viticultural practices and vinification.

The participating cellars were Cederberg, Rijk’s, Wamakersvallei, Roodezandt, Moreson Soleil du Matin, Laborie Estate, Boland, Bergsig Estate, Beaumont Wines, Grangehurst, Stellenzicht, Meerendal, Warwick, Bellevue Estate, Tukulu and Vlottenburg.

The Pinotage Association was founded in 1995 and now has 157 members. One of their success stories is the annual Absa Top 10 Pinotage Competition in which the country’s top 10 Pinotage wines are identified.

By the end of 2000 Pinotage vineyards comprised altogether 6 500 hectares in South Africa, making it the second biggest red wine variety in the country. The biggest surface is planted to Cabernet Sauvignon, namely 8 824 hectares. These two are followed by Shiraz (5 630 hectares), Merlot (4 887 hectares) and Cinsaut (3 533 hectares). The Pinotage vineyards increased from 2,1% of the total vineyard surface in 1990, to 6,2%.

The wine region with the most Pinotage vineyards is Malmesbury with 25,9% of the countrywide total, followed by Stellenbosch (23,6%), Paarl (20,1%) and Worcester (13%).

With regard to red varietal wines, Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinotage are our biggest export products. In the 12 months ending March 2001, bottle exports of Pinotage amounted to 5, 5 million litres and bulk to 936 428 litres. (Cabernet 6 763 982 litres and 1 317 886 litres respectively). They are followed by Merlot and Shiraz.

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