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Jul 22, 2007 01:27 PM


Was recently introduced to this South African Red. It was from Oracle and I really enjoyed it! Medium body and smooth. I am finding more and more South African wines in the liquor stores and seem to enjoy them all. Any thoughts?

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  1. South Africa has a long winemaking tradition, and has a number of very delicious wines and wineries worth exploring.

    I think you'll find most people would agree that Pinotage is NOT one of them, however, as the examples that actually appeal to most U.S. and European palates are few and far between. I must have had at least three dozen different examples of Pinotage in the past 20-25 years, and I have only tasted one that I thought was "excellent" and would buy and serve again, if I could -- and that was a reserve bottling that was hand-carried over to the US by a South African friend who worked in the wine trade there. I've had a few that I thought were "good," and that I would buy again to put into a wine tasting (but not on my dinner table). Most, however . . . .

    This does NOT mean that you shouldn't enjoy it, or that you were wrong to like it, etc., etc., etc. What it DOES mean is a) people have different palates and different preferences; b) my preferences seem to lie elsewhere; and c) I haven't had the Oracle, and maybe I should.


    4 Replies
    1. re: zin1953

      I'm with Jason on this one. I have been in the wine business for over 10 years and can count on two fingers a Pinotage I found pleasing to my palate. If you have found some that you love consider yourself lucky and enjoy! You may also want to check out some of the Sauvignon Blanc and Chenin Blanc from South Africa, some very interesting values to be had there for sure.

      1. re: zin1953

        With respect, Jason, 3 dozen in 25 years is hardly a basis to damn an entire grape variety. How many excellent South African wines did you have in the same time? One excellent red Burgundy in 25 years would be good going :)

        Forget 25 years ago. In fact forget any South African Pinotage with a 19 in its vintage year. So much has been learned about winemaking and how to handle that variety. It is time to look afresh at the variety. And not only from SA - have you seen the reviews of Fort Ross Pinotage from California?

        However the fact is that Pinotage is a flavorsome wine. The reason that Pinot Grigio is so successful is that the wines do not taste of anything. A wine that tastes of something will have its adherents and those that don't 'get it'.

        Oracle is a brannd from Distell. Up a step is Hill & Dale (already mentioned) which is a second wine from Stellenzicht and made by Guy Webber and punches well above its price.

        There's good Pinotages out there. But avoid the cheapo's

        1. re: Gussie Finknottle

          Three dozen in 25 years is NOT a huge number, I agree. But I'm not talking about (nor am I including) wines tasted in competition, but rather wines I voluntary purchased based upon recommendations. Considering each of these wines were $20+, I'm looking at -- I don't know, at least $750-800 I poured down the drain!

          (FWIW, my success rate in Burgundy is MUCH better than that!)

          >>> Forget 25 years ago. In fact forget any South African Pinotage with a 19 in its vintage year. So much has been learned about winemaking and how to handle that variety. <<<

          Yes, it's only a variety that they've been making since the late 1920s. ;^) That said, however, I agree that great strides have been made technologically in SA since the fall of apartheid, which is WHY . . .

          >>> It is time to look afresh at the variety. <<<

          I said above that I would check out some of those wines mentioned above. However . . .

          >>> However the fact is that Pinotage is a flavorsome wine. The reason that Pinot Grigio is so successful is that the wines do not taste of anything. A wine that tastes of something will have its adherents and those that don't 'get it'. <<<

          Oh, nonsense! A good Pinot Grigio is light and flavorsome; Pinotage is big and flavorsome, and far too many taste of paintbox for my liking.

          But I promise that I WILL buy some and taste them, and report herein on the results.


          1. re: zin1953

            Can't ask for more than an open mind :)

            Strongly suggest you try a California Pinotage, such as Vino Con Brio from Lodi or Fort Ross in order to separate the variety from SA winemaking practises

      2. We just bought two cases of pinotage and one shiraz. Their wines are excellent. The pinotage is our favorite with a good steak. A good South African white is Glen Carlou chardonnay ($16 per bottle)...smooth and buttery with a hint of citrus.

        9 Replies
        1. re: MartiniQueen

          I am actually a fan of Pinotage. One of my favorite value Pinotages is by Hill & Dale. It is under $10 and is full of flavor, smoky, spicy and much less earthy than other Pinotages. Other Pinotages I have enjoyed include: 2004 Pinecrest Pinotage ($19), 2004 Ken Forrester Petit Pinotage ($10), and the 2005 Sebeka Shiraz-Pinotage ($9).

          1. re: RichardA

            Maybe that's my problem -- I don't think I've ever spent less than $20 on a Pinotage before; perhaps I should save money and enjoy them more! ;^)

            Seriously, five posters so far -- and three of the five have examples of Pinotage they like and recommend. I honestly am shocked! I would have bet the "positive" reply rate would have more like three out of ten, not three out of five!

            I shall look for the wines you mentioned, Richard . . .


            1. re: zin1953

              I've had about 25% luck with Pinotage and my palate, and most have been above US$15/btl. Some good, most barely OK, but none great. I still try them, given the chance, but hold out only slightly more hope of finding a great one, than I do at finding a Chilean, that I would spend any $ on.

              Up a few replies, The Glen Carlou Chard was mentioned. I liked it, but not a lot. OTOH, their Grand Classiqe, Bdx-blend, has made a hit with me, though I did find that it is better upon release, than aged in a proper cellar.

              I look for great SA wines, as many of my wife's Dr's are from SA, and I enjoy popping a cork with them.


          2. re: MartiniQueen

            Glen Carlou is part of the Hess family of wines.

            Sorry I don't know how to move this post back up to where I wanted it to go. In response to MartiniQueen.

            1. re: chickstein

              Are there any other South African reds that people can recommend? Somewhere around $15-20 dollars.

              1. re: drewames03

                It's a little bit above your price range, but the Meerlust Rubicon is a very good Bordeaux blend for the price, around $22-25. The last one i had was a 2001. Medium/full bodied, good balance, long finish, and seems versatile with a wide range of foods. I think the '03 was recently released.

                1. re: mengathon

                  The first SA wine I truly loved was Meerlust's Rubicon!

                  1. re: zin1953

                    The 2001 is the only one I've had. I have a couple of bottles of the 2000 and think I may be drinking them soon. I have no experience with how long these wines should be aged or when they're drinking well. I'll probably get a couple of bottles of the '03 when they arrive at my local store. But for the life of me, I can't find an '02 Rubicon. Even the Meerlust Estate website doesn't have any mention of it. I'm assuming they just didn't make a blend that year for quality reasons?

                    1. re: mengathon

                      I do not know for sure, but that would be my assumption as well.

          3. I love pinotage, but it is a bit, um, eccentric. I agree with Gussie that 20th century vintages aren't worth it, unless you can find Kanonkop, which has always been a producer of the highest quality, but is concommitantly expensive, about $40-50 in Toronto, when available. Less expensive, but quite good, Graham Beck Old Road Pinotage, Jacobsdal, Bellevue (might now be labelled Morkel), and Scali are all worth it. Scali is very small production (fewer than 20 barrels) but very much a bargain at $25. Simonsig Frans Malan is a very interesting pinotage/merlot/cab sauv blend, which I would recommend. As a general rule, the less you pay, the more likely the pinotage will display a fault.

            Just as a (pedantic) note, Jason is correct that it is a young varietal ("cultivar" in the South African parlance) when he dates pinotage to the 1920s, but in fact the first commercial vintage was 1959.

            Most pinot noirs from South Africa are not worth it, but I recommend Bouchard-Finlayson. The regular flight is about $32, and they have a Tete de Cuvee ($115!) which I have not tasted; but the regular flight pnot needs time to evolve. Two weeks ago we had the 2000 (purchased three years ago), and it was now peaking. It was excellent and had a very satisfying complexity.

            Cin cin!

            1. I had a stunning 2006 Diemersfontein Pinotage in the UK this winter--it was like drinking an espresso coffee wine. It needed more time in the bottle, but I'm not sorry I had it! Only 7.99 sterling, and one of the most memorable wines I've had in a long time. Unfortunately, I can't seem to find it over here. It's available in Cyprus, Switzerland, the UK, Ireland, Germany--but not the US.

              Closer to home, and much easier to find, the 2003 Fort Ross Pinotage at around $30 is stunning, too. Aromas and flavors of espresso, blackberry, and bittersweet chocolate.

              2 Replies
              1. re: Dr. Debs

                Ah, yes... I second Diemersfontein. It's sometimes available in Ontario at around the UK price.

              2. I just had the 2004 Kanonkop Estate Wine Pinotage ($35) and it was a superb wine. Complex, balanced, lots of good fruit and a smoky/bacon finish. Mild tannins and only a tinge of earthiness. This should please even those who dislike Pinotage.