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Pinotage: A Brief Introduction

I’ve talked about Pinotage before, but it came up again for me the other day when I talked about Gamay. Largely because Pinotage is really the best wine to drink if you’re sick of Pinot Noir. After all, it probably should be. It is at least half of Pinot genetically, after all.

One thing I struggle with, as a human being though, at least one woke enough to care about this stuff, is talking about Pinotage and South African wine because the history of the grape and the industry in South Africa is, without a doubt, tied to Apartheid. While the diversity in the wine trade, is a good thing, if it came from a racist and horrible history in the country, should I support it? Does supporting it now help groups of people that were negatively effected by Apartheid? Are there enough native Afrikaans employed in the trade for this to matter? Those are all questions I’ve love to explore, but for today I’ll be comfortable enough to say they exist and that it’s something as an industry, we NEED to talk about. We

Hello, this is Mark Aselstine with Uncorked Ventures.

So I’m going to hold this up so you can get a good look at it but really the only thing that’s important here for today is this little we’re right in the middle which you probably aren’t familiar with enough to know that it’s a type of wine but maybe not familiar enough to know exactly what it is.

It’s Pinotage and Pinotage is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut and so when we look back at the history of South Africa which is apartheid terrible stretches and buy everything that’s been said about it and I don’t want to lessen that by any extent here but we have to remove our-self a little bit and say that these people that came from Europe and ended up in South Africa they wanted to make things as easy as they could and they develop this grape which is the cross between Pinot which obviously it’s in burgundy and Cinsaut her which is in the southern Rhone valley.

What came out is easy enough to understand, it was a hell of a easy thing to grow but when you got into the winery and you try to make wine with that things got a little more complicated so that sometimes on the nose you’ll get hint of acetone you know which is the stuff you take your fingernails polish off other winemakers will tell you that it taste them like a wet dog.

After apartheid ended in the early 90s one of the things that happened was that a lot of people that were South African by birth said we see ourselves as a wine industry more as European than new world and pinotage in a lot of ways is very new world in the way that it taste it can be lighter and body but the tastes are very strong and it can be very forward and that they see themselves more in the European model of winemaking were and where they think they should be growing more International varieties.

More than one interesting thing is as in the United States especially when we’ve moved into the Pinot Noir and light or red wine categories we really struggled to create a secondary like if I start talking about Gamay the other day a little bit and I think that’s one valid kind of choice.

I think pinotage was probably another and I think you know about the wine industry is that we have all these really important differences in how people look at you know what the industry should be and kind of what kind of grape should be grown and I think there’s a lot of reverence to people in South Africa that lived through a terrible set of centuries really and then when they came out that they still have this native grape that they were largely cultivating on their own and so people are interested to see you know what will this do I plant in the United States but then you’re also seeing it planted by people with vineyard space and if you have a couple of rows at the end of your Vineyard and you want to plan something unusual Pinotage can be a good choice and I hope this is a decent and some of the history of South Africa although to say that I think the history and the grape in this case are largely intertwined we shouldn’t lessen that.

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