South Africa is a country given to controversy, so it shouldn’t come as much of a surprise that the wine wild child born of a union of Pinot Noir and Cinsaut provoked skepticism at first. Rather than being welcomed, it was treated with suspicion and mistrust in the conservative wine world. Traditionalists could not believe that an unknown varietal from the far south of the African continent could be so impertinent as to invite itself to dinner at the best tables in Europe and the Americas.
First ignored in polite society, in 1979 Pinotage was all but banished from the Northern hemisphere after a group of British Masters of Wine visited the Cape and judged it to have no future. South African wine makers refused to back down. 15 years later, Pinotage swaggered in like a precocious child when Beyers Truter of Kanonkop took the International Winemaker of the Year Award at the 1991 International Wine and Spirit Competition. The upstart had arrived.
Pinotage is one of those wines everyone has an opinion about. It’s a bit like another South African son of an unusual union who has been setting the USA on fire with his comedic talents. Trevor Noah and Pinotage are both children of mixed backgrounds born on South African soil who have had the audacity to triumph first at home and then abroad. Much like Trevor Noah’s Twitter history, Pinotage still raises eyebrows, but consistently excellent offerings have won over the doubters and created fans all over the world.
The Trevor Noah of the wine world is an adaptable grape that creates wines which can be taken seriously or lightly. Younger pinotage has fruity and berry flavors and aromas, while older pinotage is richer and more opulent.
Diemersfontein is the original oak-matured ‘coffee chocolate’ wine which makes gourmets and wine lovers everywhere swoon. Only a brave new world would create a red wine that evokes coffee and chocolate, combinations previously forbidden by old school wine masters. South Africans broke the rules and ushered in an era where women no longer had to choose between a glass or two of wine or a box of chocolates.
When it comes to food, pinotage is a sturdy wine capable of standing up to robust pairings that would make more delicate choices wilt. It can go head to head with a curry and is the perfect partner in crime to a traditional BBQ or a hearty stew with rich, aromatic flavors. The more refined versions evoke another South African superstar, Candice Swanepoel. Between pinotage, Trevor Noah, and Victoria’s Secret’s golden girl, the Rainbow Nation is finally coming into it’s own in every sphere. Let’s raise a glass to the newcomers.
Marie-Ora de Villiers. Born in the far north of Namibia, I live in South Africa. I grew up in a multilingual home and spent a lot of time in Europe as a child, so I’ve always been fascinated with language and pronunciation. I love studying how food, wine, culture, and language combine organically over time to create new ideas. Huge animal lover with shoe and chocolate fetishes.