Pinotage: The story of a “love me hate me” wine

The story of pinotage wine

THE other week I was  a guest at quite a  posh function, so I made an effort and became very  girlie for the evening.

There were a couple of  surprises in store. Number  One: I didn’t spill any red  wine on my sparkly top  (though I did knock over a coffee) and Number Two: I   enjoyed the house wine, a  pinotage. It was deep red,  with plenty of black fruits  and spiky pepper.

Pinotage isn’t a grape I’ve  been drawn to over the  years.

It was created in 1925 in  South Africa by Professor Abraham Perold using pinot  noir and cinsault. (Also  known as hermitage,  hence  the compound name  pinotage. Just think, it could have been named herminoir).  The vines were  forgotten but rediscovered  tangled and overgrown.

Continue reading “Pinotage: The story of a “love me hate me” wine”

It was the 40s before  the first wine was  made and over the  years it has suffered a  “love it or hate it”  reputation. Some  hasn’t been very nice.

Wines of South  Africa    ( says of the  grape: “It can  produce complex  and fruity wines  with age but is  also often very  drinkable when young. With  great strides  made in the  making of  pinotage, South  Africa’s own variety is rapidly  gaining  increasing  acceptance and  finding favour  worldwide both as a varietal  bottling and in blends.”

The Pinotage Association says: “We will never stop  pursuing better and better  quality pinotage. We will  never stop improving each  other’s knowledge about  pinotage.” (Find out more at

I’ve taste-tested  pinotage  from various supermarkets. No scientific decision- making other than that.

L’Avenir Pinotage 2012
L’Avenir Pinotage 2012

L’Avenir Pinotage 2012  (£8.69, Sainsbury): It’s  deep red with peppered cherries and a smudge of  mocha on the nose. I ummed and ahhed and   recalled   sweet shop   Sarsaparilla tablets. There are moderate tannins and a squirt of spice. Delightfully  drinkable.

Fairtrade Cambalala  Pinotage (£4.99, Aldi): It is  apt to include a Fairtrade  wine as this week sees the  start of Fairtrade Fortnight. Well it was perfectly good  value and another  easy-drinker. For under a  fiver you get a smoky cherry and coffee nose (not  you personally, that would  look silly) and to taste,  some pepper-dashed fresh  red fruits and softly  savoury  afternotes.

Morrisons Signature  South African Pinotage  (£7.99,   at  stores and It had bright blueberries  and redcurrant aromas  with   some chocolate  vanilla and a little spicy menthol. On the palate, a buzz of  acidity, soft tannins, red  fruits and pepper; a bitter  chocolate lingers as the  fruit dies  away.

Simply South African  Pinotage (Tesco, £4.99):  Savoury tones of  mushrooms and then  blackcurrants and white  pepper come to the  fore. The wine is light  like a pinot noir but  has the now familiar  spicy edge. Not bad for another wine for  under a fiver.

 Also in my glass

… continuing the  cinsault theme with  De Martino  Gallardia del Itata  Cinsault   (£8.95,  ww.thewinesociety. com). It is pretty  bloomin’ delicious,   from Chile and a spicy hot pot of  deep red fruits. Did I sense a  floral lift in   the spice? Yes I think so.

It’s only fair to add a  white to these meanderings  dominated by reds.  The  Society’s   Faldeos Nevados  Fiano    (£7.75) is vibrant and  refreshing with lemon and  pineapple  pinging out of  the glass and a long-lasting  juicy citrus flavour sliced by   an edge of minerality.  My  mouth waters   as I write.

The Wine Society is  running a South American  offer until March 2.

Published in the saturday extra magazine February 22, 2014

Liverpool Echo – South Wales Echo – Daily Post Wales – Huddersfield Examiner – The Chronicle, Newcastle – Teesside Evening Gazette – Birmingham  Mail – Coventry Telegraph – Paisley Daily Express



Fairtrade Fortnight wine supports farmers and workers

Six Hats Fairtrade wine review

THE broadest, brightest night sky over one part of South Africa has inspired the name of one of the country’s most successful wineries.

Stellar Winery is 275 kilometres north of Cape Town on the road to Namibia. Its name doesn’t just reflect the spangled sky above – but it also summarises the breadth of the aspirations of both the cellar and the farmers who grow the grapes.

Stellar is just one of many wineries worldwide which have adopted the principles of fair trade – in this instance, the principles of the Fair for Life programme.

This fortnight – up until March 10 – is Fairtrade Fortnight, which is calling on the public, business and government to go further in making trade work better for farmers and workers.

In 2011, UK sales of Fairtrade wine grew by 12% in value and 6% in volume to total 6.5 million litres. There are now over 250 certified Fairtrade wines in the UK.

The ethos Stellar has adopted has seen the privately-owned winery develop into one in which the workers own a 26% shareholding. It was the first organic winery in the world to be awarded Fairtrade certification and the communities around have benefited tremendously.

There’s a Viognier vineyard planted next to the school, where wine is made as an education project.

There’s also a football field, a training centre where workers can have courses in numeracy and an organic vegetable garden which not only helps to feed the community, but is now also a money-making concern.

If you buy fair trade wine, you know you will be helping to make a difference. Here’s a handful:

Stellar organics fairtrade wine
Stellar organics fairtrade wine

Stellar Fairtrade Merlot No added sulphur/low sulphites (£7.75 is an easy-drinking, but flavoursome wine packed with cherry fruit and soft and supple tannins. Why no sulphur? Sulphur is added in winemaking first as an antiseptic to kill yeast, moulds and bacteria and secondly as an antioxidant.

Stellar believes that producing an S02-free wine allows them to recapture the “credibility in organic wines”.

I enjoyed Fairhills Fairtrade Colombard/Sauvignon Blanc Western Cape, (down to £5.39 from to £6.79 at Waitrose until March 12). Fairhills is one of the world’s largest Fairtrade projects across three countries – Argentina, Chile and South Africa. This is from the latter and for a gentle weekday relax, was refreshing and mouth-watering with the signature gooseberry notes from sauvignon blanc.

Cambalala Fairtrade Pinotage (£4.99, Aldi) was a silver award winner at last year’s International Wine and Spirits competition.

It has dark berries, spice and pepper on the nose and a broody smokiness; peppery and black fruits to taste.

This grape specific to South Africa is a complicated little devil.

Finally, doff your cap to the Six Hats range of South African Fairtrade wines launched in 2009 and which highlights the responsibilities in equitable wine farming. The six “hats” are worn by both the farmer and the community – they are partnership, change, potential, equity, dignity and sustainability.

The new 2012 Six Hats vintages of shiraz and rosé (both £ 7.99) are two for £12 at M&S until March 3 – buy six save 25 per cent. The shiraz has blackberries and spice in abundance and the rosé more feminine strawberries crafted from the Pinotage grape.

 This column first appeared in the Liverpool Post on March 1 2013