Pinotage red wine variety

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Pinotage is a red wine variety which was bred in South Africa from a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut.

The cross was made to try to combine the wine quality of Pinot Noir with the high yielding ability of Cinsaut.

Dear oh dear. I don't know any grape variety that arouses such fierce controversy as Pinotage.

British wine writer Oz Clarke makes this comment as the opening line to his entry in this book.

The truth is that it can be used to make truly unpleasant wines, or some very good wines, or in fact plenty of ordinary stuff in between.

A couple of years ago I tried a South African Pinotage which had been matured in a charred oak barrel. Apparently this is done to improve the wine. In this case it tasted like someone had used my wine glass as an ash tray. It was much worse than any of the wines which were effected by smoke taint from bushfires in Australia.

One of the problems with the variety is that it makes wines which have a range of unusual flavours and sometimes very high levels of unpleasant volatile esters. South African winemakers have been working to overcome these problems, reportedly with some success. Some say that its future is as blending material where the unusual flavours can be used without overwhelming the senses.

Pinotage has been used with some success in New Zealand.

Australian wineries using Pinotage

Obviously this variety represents a challenge and it is somewhat surprising that it is only recently that Australian winemakers have taken up the challenge.

  • Oak Works Riverland
  • Ravens Croft Granite Belt
  • Thick as Thieves Yarra Valley
  • Toppers Mountain New England
  • Whyworry Wines New England
It will be a few years before we can make an assessment of the value and potential of this variety in Australia, although the early signs from New England and Granite Belt are very promising.

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