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I am a fan of the South African Pinotage grape. Pinotage always seems to be one of those varietals that you either like or dislike, with little inbetween.

I recently tasted the 2003 Hill & Dale, Pinotage, Stellenbosch ($9)and thought it was a superb value. It was smooth, smoky, and earthy. It was an intriguing and complex wine, especially for under $10. It is also much mellower than most Pinotages I have had and thus might even interest those who generally do not care for Pinotage.

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  1. check out graham beck old road pinotage... very tasty.

    1. My experiences have varied so wildly that I tend to avoid them - so it's good to know a few solid providers

      1. The only Pinotage I have had was this month, from J Winery, Sonoma, 2003. Dark inky ruby-purple, strong, alcoholic, fruity (cherries and concorde grape, verging on foxy?), kind of weird. DeLong's wine grape varietal table says "can have a pronounced candy-like pungency" which I thought described it well. I also thought, why bother with this when there is so much other great wine out there? On the other hand, I didn't get tired of drinking it and we had no trouble finishing the bottle, it was a decent wine. I appreciate your recommendation of a good South African version. But does it share any of the characteristics I describe?

        1. No, my Pinotage was much less fruity and more smoke and spice. It is a very smooth wine and not like a fruit-bomb at all. Much more Old World than New World.

          Has anyone had a California Pinotage? I have read a little ab out the 2002 Fort Ross Pinotage and it has intrigued me though I have not yet been able to find it in Mass.

          4 Replies
          1. re: RichardA

            In general, South African wines bridge New and Old World in style. And that rubbery, bandaid thing is the other characteristic that makes them easy to spot in a blind tasting. Pinotage often smells a little like blue cheese to me also.

            The 2002 Fort Ross Pinotage was very fine when I tried it about 2 years ago. I think one of the owners of the winery is South African. Besides its New World, Sonoma County cool climate origin to set it apart from South African examples, it seemed to me that the winemaking style brought out a different side of the grape. Rather than rustic and spicy, this was a far more elegantly constructed wine. I recall being so intrigued by it that I did a little research at the time and found out that Fred Scherrer (Scherrer, ex-Dehlinger, ex-Greenwood Ridge) and Ed Kurtzman (August West, ex-Testarossa, ex-Chalone) were consulting winemakers though I don't know which one made this wine. They're both excellent producers of fine Pinot Noir under their own labels, and a light hand with Pinotage brought out a lot of subtlety that I never expected to find.

            1. re: Melanie Wong

              We actually first tasted & fell in love with the Fort Ross wines just this past weekend at a food event. Have you tried their Symposium proprietary blend? It's Pinotage and Pinot Noir, and I found it to be wonderfully balanced between fruity, spicy, mineralistic & rich, but with a much lighter finish than one would expect from the first blush.
              I can't recommend this wine highly enough.

              1. re: Melanie Wong

                The rubbery 'characteristic' which can be found in some SA Pinotage is a fault caused by underipe grapes (itself caused by a virus). You won't find this characteristic in better SA pinotage.

              2. re: RichardA

                I've liked the Fort Ross Pinotage when I've tried it.

              3. Steltzner on the Silverado Trail has an interesting pinotage - mouthfeel and texture similar to pinot meunier, black cherry fruit. only available at the winery.

                1. I tasted a Pinotage from Sutter Ridge (Amador County, California) last weekend. It was priced at the winery around $15 and I was not impressed.

                  I guess I will have to taste some others to see how they compare.


                  1. I like Fleur du Cap Stellenbosch, S. African Pinotage.

                    1. I just tried a Pinotage from Man Vintners, West Good Hope South Africa that was delicious, and at $8 was certainly nothing to sneeze at. It had aromas of cranberry and cherry with a rich and smoky taste, moderate tannins and a long finish. Definitely food friendly.

                      1. Fans of Pinotage should keep an eye out for Cinsault, as well. Pinotoge is a recent (20th Century) cross between Cinsault and Pinot Noir.

                        Assuming its the dense bitter-almond, ash, and earth flavors that attract you to Pinotage. Better yet, you typically can get a bottle from the Rhone for under $8.

                        Keith Wallace
                        The Wine School of Philadelphia

                        2 Replies
                        1. re: amwf

                          Do you have any specific Cinsault wines you can recommend? I do not believe I have seen any Cinsault dominant wines. I have seen it added as a minor element to some blends, but never as the predominant varietal.


                          1. re: RichardA


                            The majority of dub-$8 Cotes du Provence wines are still at least half cinsault, and that includes the roses.

                            For a higher price point, Bandol are heavy on the cinsault (along with mouvedre). Also, there is quite a bit of Cinsault grown in South Africa, a quick web search should do the trick.

                        2. I love the J Winery Pinotage. Was just at their tasting room last weekend. Which is worth going by the way. Sit down tastings paired wtih food in the Bubble Room. Pinotage reminds me of Cab Franc. It's an unsusual tasting grape... I love both of them. SA wines in general can be skunky. I used to spend quite a bit of time there in 1992 during the fall of apartheid. Two of my fav wineeries there are the legendary Kanonkop (older vintages like late 1980's are outstanding) and Thelema. Recently, at a SA tasting in Los Angeles, I fell in love with a Meinert 2002. I believe it's a blend..can't remember. When I get home (on a trip now), will look in my cellar and report back. It is OUTSTANDING.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: MalibuAly

                            New Reply to an Old Thread . . .

                            The Kanonkop is the ONLY Pinotage I've ever had that I liked, and there was one vintage from the early 1980s that was a Reserve Bottling (winery only, IIRC) that a friend hand-carried from Stellenbosch to Santa Cruz for a dinner . . . . *THAT* one was magnificent!

                          2. I just read this thread a couple of days ago and got interested in trying this varietal.

                            I went to my nearest wine emporium and sure enough, they just put Mischief Maker wines on sale, including their pinotage. I spoke with one of the staff, and he said in general, he hates pinotage and the only one he recommends to customers is a $20 bottle. However, he said the Mischief Maker was a solid bottle of wine, and at $8.99, the price can't be beat.

                            My opinion? Meh. Just meh. Not horrible, but certainly nothing memorable. A bit of blackberry at the front, relatively strong alcohol taste, but pretty flabby overall. I'm glad I tried it, though, especially at that price.

                            9 Replies
                            1. re: jackbauer

                              "Meh" describes most Pinotage wines, IMHO. But there are a handful that can be GREAT! Problem? I agree with "one of the staff" -- there are only a couple I recommend, and they are expensive.

                              1. re: zin1953

                                We had a guy locally originally from South Africa who was a huge fan of pinotage. He probably poured me wine from a dozen different bottles and waxed about their greatness but I never tasted anything I wanted to try again.

                                1. re: SteveTimko

                                  "I never tasted anything I wanted to try again"

                                  that pretty much sums iy up!

                                  1. re: jock


                                    Between yours, and Jason's summary, I will echo the same. Somewhat interesting, in its own right, but nothing to explore again. I am certain that I have missed many, but with 300 strikes, why keep trying?


                                  2. re: SteveTimko

                                    I've probably had about 50 different Pinotages in my life, and I can think of TWO that I would love to have again, and probably three more that I wouldn't mind having again, but wouldn't go on a quest to find . . . it's definitely *NOT* my favorite varietal wine.

                                    1. re: zin1953

                                      for me just one and i think that one had a small percentage of another variety.

                                2. re: jackbauer

                                  As a huge Pinotage fan, I can admit that most Pinotage falls into one of two categories - bad and great. It is definitely an acquired taste and those of us that enjoy a true South African pinotage are generally not big fans of US Pinotage. Although, there are a couple that I would recommend from CA - Pelican Ranch and Domenico are two that I would recommend. I am not a big fan of Loma Prieta as I believe it tastes too much like a Pinot Noir and not enough like a classical Pinotage. The Cinsault characteristics have been mostly stripped away. My biggest response would be, just don't try one, keep trying and you will find one you like. I am also a big fan of Greyhaven pinotage from VA and MAN and Right Whale pinotage from South Africa. All are well under $30 a bottle and represent the true South African pinotage.

                                  1. re: Pottershop2

                                    I had occasion to taste a Fort Ross Pinotage last week. Fort Ross comes from what most would refer to as the Sonoma Coast Appellation. I agree that this variety is an acquired taste, but I think I had the same issue with a Kanonkop Pinotage I tried some time ago (and referred to in another post in this thread). The Fort Ross was rather earthy and also had what I would call leather/tobacco-y elements that seemed to overpower the fruit for me. Then, again, the winery's notes say theirs is unlike any South African example, so I may just have an aversion to this grape.

                                    Have you tried the Fort Ross?

                                    Have you

                                    1. re: Midlife

                                      The fort ross pinotage that I have had was very fruit fiorward and did not resemble the earthy south african style I personnaly like. I would recommend a pinotage from Man cellars in south africa or Pelican Ranch in Santa Cruz CA for an American grown pinotage that reflects the sourh african varietal well

                                3. When I first saw Pinotage I thought the name really sounded great, but after having three or four varieties, I thought it was certainly not worth trying again. Quite a disappointment, really.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: Tripeler

                                    When we owned our wine shop we had a customer who had us order Kanonkop Pinotage (Stellenbosch) for him by the case. He had me open a bottle in the shop to try and I have to say it was not something I'd really want to pursue. If I recall correctly it had a harshness about it that was off-putting. Maybe with food?

                                  2. Pinotage consistently reminds me of when my cat farts while sitting next to me. Throw some cherries on top, and there ya go. Not a huge fan.

                                    1. I don't quite agree that this is a varietal you either like or dislike. i think it's pretty meh. The vast majority of Pinotage (all South African) I have ever had were perfectly drinkable, but not particularly good. They are decent value for money, but then again I would rarely have been willing to pay much more as the wines were just meh.

                                      There were a few (very few) that were absolutely stunning, but you find that with any so-so variety. In the right winemaker's hands and within the perfect terroir for the varietal, any ugly duckling occasionally shines. Just not very often when it is a Pinotage.

                                      1 Reply
                                      1. re: Asomaniac

                                        There are a couple of interesting points raised here and maybe one or two I'd like to add...

                                        (1) In my experience, the thing that most people find difficult to deal with in Pinotage is the level of acidity (or rather the excess acidity found in some bottles). Even many winemakers are divided on this characteristic of Pinotage with some declaring prominent acidity to be a fundamental characteristic of the grape and others suggesting that it is a fault that ought to be avoided.

                                        (2) There is a real divide between the characters of cheap and mass produced Pinotage and Pinotage produced with a real terroir focus. The mass produced stuff tends to be pretty bland and characterless, which is why when people "trade up" to more expensive, more terroir orientated bottles they are shocked by the profusion of smoke, pepper and other spice that tends to be revealed.

                                        (3) There tends to be a huge development in the flavours of Pinotage with age ... with young Pinotage often tasting of banana(!) and more mature Pinotage taking on darker and smokier flavoural characteristics - again there is difference between people's expectations and reality.