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Pinotage is a red grape variety that is uniquely South African, and it has a fascinating history. The grape is a hybrid of two varieties, Pinot Noir and Cinsault (also known as Hermitage), and was first bred in the early 1920s by Professor Abraham Izak Perold, who was a viticulturist at the University of Stellenbosch in South Africa.

Professor Abraham Izak Perold
Professor Abraham Izak Perold

Perold's goal was to create a grape that combined the finesse and elegance of Pinot Noir with the hardiness and disease resistance of Cinsault, which was widely grown in South Africa at the time. The hybrid grape was first created in 1925 when Perold crossed the two varieties in his garden, but he didn't actually plant any of the vines until 1935.

In 1941, a young winemaker named Charlie Niehaus came across some of Perold's Pinotage vines growing at Elsenburg Agricultural College in Stellenbosch. Niehaus was intrigued by the grape and decided to make wine from it. He produced the first commercial Pinotage wine in 1942, which was sold under the label "Kanonkop."

Pinotage quickly gained popularity in South Africa, and it became known for its unique flavor profile, which is often described as smoky, earthy, and rustic, with notes of red fruit and spice. However, the grape also had its detractors, who found its flavors to be too intense or "funky."

Pinotage's reputation suffered a setback in the 1960s and 1970s, when many South African winemakers focused on producing large quantities of cheap, low-quality wine for export. Pinotage was often used in these blends, and it became associated with inferior wine.

In the 1980s, a group of South African winemakers began to focus on quality over quantity, and they started to produce small batches of premium Pinotage wines. These wines were made using carefully selected grapes, and they were aged in oak barrels to add complexity and depth.

Today, Pinotage is considered one of South Africa's signature grapes, and it is grown in several wine regions throughout the country, including Stellenbosch, Swartland, and the Breedekloof Valley. While it may not be as well-known as some other red varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot, Pinotage has a loyal following among wine lovers who appreciate its unique character and history.

Characteristics of Pinotage from South Africa

Pinotage is a versatile wine that can be paired with a variety of foods, from spicy curries to grilled meats to rich chocolate desserts. It also pairs well with South African cuisine, such as bobotie (a traditional meat dish) and biltong (dried meat similar to Jerky).

Its complex aroma and flavor profile, high tannins, moderate to high acidity, full body, and age-ability make it a wine that is worth trying. If you're interested in exploring the world of South African wine, Pinotage is a great place to start.

Niel Joubert Pinotage


The wine has a rich and concentrated bouquet of dark berry confit, prunes, vanilla and sweet spice notes. It's a lighter-style wine with soft acidity, smooth tannins, and a fruit-forward palate with just a hint of toffee, which is perfect for the wine lover who dislikes more robust styles of Pinotage. This wine is completely unwooded.

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