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RichardA Oct 26, 2006 05:59 PM

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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    HeelsSoxHound RE: RichardA Oct 26, 2006 09:04 PM

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

    1. t
      tdo ca RE: RichardA Oct 26, 2006 10:23 PM

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

      1. k
        kenito799 RE: RichardA Oct 27, 2006 03:36 AM

        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. r
          RichardA RE: RichardA Oct 27, 2006 02:22 PM

          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
            Melanie Wong RE: RichardA Nov 1, 2006 03:19 AM

            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
              foodiegrl RE: Melanie Wong Nov 4, 2006 05:01 PM

              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
                dustbuddy RE: Melanie Wong Apr 18, 2011 03:43 AM

                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
                SteveTimko RE: RichardA Jun 4, 2010 10:44 AM

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

              3. j
                jimtak RE: RichardA Oct 27, 2006 08:22 PM

                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. howefortunate RE: RichardA Oct 28, 2006 05:19 AM

                  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. m
                    Moka RE: RichardA Oct 31, 2006 06:41 PM

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

                    1. c
                      cooknKate RE: RichardA Nov 3, 2006 03:38 PM

                      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.

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                        amwf RE: RichardA Nov 3, 2006 05:58 PM

                        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
                          RichardA RE: amwf Nov 4, 2006 02:24 PM

                          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
                            amwf RE: RichardA Nov 4, 2006 04:57 PM


                            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. m
                          MalibuAly RE: RichardA Nov 4, 2006 02:38 PM

                          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
                            zin1953 RE: MalibuAly Jun 4, 2010 04:57 PM

                            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. j
                            jackbauer RE: RichardA Apr 15, 2011 06:41 AM

                            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
                              zin1953 RE: jackbauer Apr 15, 2011 07:28 AM

                              "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
                                SteveTimko RE: zin1953 Apr 15, 2011 08:02 AM

                                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
                                  jock RE: SteveTimko Apr 15, 2011 11:44 PM

                                  "I never tasted anything I wanted to try again"

                                  that pretty much sums iy up!

                                  1. re: jock
                                    Bill Hunt RE: jock Apr 17, 2011 09:36 PM


                                    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
                                    zin1953 RE: SteveTimko Apr 16, 2011 06:04 AM

                                    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
                                      jock RE: zin1953 Apr 17, 2011 01:39 AM

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

                                2. re: jackbauer
                                  Pottershop2 RE: jackbauer Apr 3, 2012 06:10 PM

                                  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
                                    Midlife RE: Pottershop2 Apr 4, 2012 11:55 PM

                                    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
                                      Pottershop2 RE: Midlife Apr 5, 2012 04:56 PM

                                      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. Tripeler RE: RichardA Apr 17, 2011 10:16 PM

                                  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
                                    Midlife RE: Tripeler Apr 19, 2011 12:55 PM

                                    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?

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                                    plaidbowtie RE: RichardA Apr 5, 2012 03:57 AM

                                    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.

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                                      Asomaniac RE: RichardA Apr 6, 2012 12:42 AM

                                      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
                                        IndependentWine RE: Asomaniac May 13, 2012 01:40 PM

                                        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.

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