Pinotage contrasts

On Thursday the ABSA Top 10 Pinotage judges revealed their choices for the 2010 edition of the competition. There were a few surprises, as much for one or two of the brands that made the top ten, as for the fact that there was no sign of Kanonkop or Beyerskloof. As the judges stated, there were a wide range of styles represented, and the top 10 included wines from the 2006, 2007, 2008 and 2009 vintages. There were also a wide range of price points represented.

The ABSA Top 10 is the torch bearer for the varietal in South Africa, and there can be little doubt that it is widely recognised and trusted by consumers as a reliable mark of quality. Its kitsch glass trophy has become a item that most winemakers would be happy to have in their cabinet.

I found it interesting that just the day before, Decanter ran a headline story online announcing the second vintage release of the world’s most expensive Pinotage, Kanonkop’s Black Label.

In South Africa, the varietal has seen a surge in popularity on the back of the oak soaked styles that have become known generically as coffee Pinotages, after the initial incarnation produced by Bertus ‘Starbucks’ Fourie for Diemersfontein. This trend has moved internationally too, with coffee and chocolate style Pinotages with higher residual sugars seeming to make the varietal attractive through their masking of unattractive tannins in poor quality fruit. Personally I think that this is a shortsighted approach and is likely to dumb-down the expectation of consumers in new Pinotage markets.

But that being said, the fact that Pinotage is able to be made in a range of styles, and through this is appealing to a range of wine drinkers, is encouraging for producers, and lends further weight for calls for South African producers to get behind it as a cornerstone of the country’s wine identity.

2010 ABSA Top 10 Pinotage winners:

  • Altydgedacht Pinotage 2009 (Durbanville)
  • Anura Reserve Pinotage 2008 (Paarl)
  • Fairvew Pinotage 2009 (Coastal)
  • Flagstone Writer’s Block Pinotage 2008 (Worcester vineyards),
  • Kaapzicht Steytler Pinotage 2007 (Stellenbosch)
  • Lyngrove Platinum Pinotage 2008 (Stellenbosch)
  • Rijk’s Reserve Pinotage 2006 (Tulbagh)
  • Welbedacht Estate Pinotage 2008 (Wellington)
  • Die Laan Pinotage 2008 (Stellenbosch) from the Welgevallen Kelder
  • Wildekrans Barrel Selection 2008

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