Pinotage, an African dream come true

Date posted:
February 1, 2012

In 2009 the South African wine industry celebrated its 350th anniversary – 350 years since wine was first made in the Cape. Simultaneously we were celebrating 50 years since the first pinotage was made for commercial release and marketing as pinotage. There have been difficult times, but what a privilege and an honour it has been to be a pinotage producer during this period with all its stories to tell...


Beyers Truter, chairman of the Pinotage Association and co-owner of Beyerskloof, is unashamedly a pinotage ambassador. This is his chairman’s address in South Africa’s PINOTAGE Wine Guide 1995 – 2011 which is available at all pinotage producers ... for free!


The history of pinotage, if not that of the entire Cape wine industry, could never be told without mention at least of Abraham Izak Perold – a gentleman and a scholar who spoke eight languages, who achieved cum lauda in all of his degrees, who educated numerous viti- and viniculture students, and who travelled the world to bring numerous grape varieties to South Africa. He was an icon, the father of pinotage responsible for the famous crossing of pinot noir and cinsaut (hermitage). We will forever be indebted to Prof Perold, to Dr Charlie Niehaus who rescued the pinotage seedlings resulting from Perold’s experiment, to Prof CJ Theron who was responsible for the propagation of the seedlings and to CT de Waal who made the first pinotage wine and shared some of it with his mates in the Western Province rugby team...


In South Africa, rugby and wine have often been joined at the hip, as it were. CT de Waal played centre for Province, and in his team were Springbok wing PK Morkel of Bellevue and prop Paul Sauer of Kanonkop. Morkel and Sauer took a liking to the new wine variety and were among the very first farmers to plant pinotage in the Cape winelands. The quality of their first pinotage wines was recognised at the National Young Wine Show and the rest, as they say, is history.


Highlights of the Pinotage Association have included various areas of research: fermentation temperatures with a view to achieving the best flavours; the influence of the growing number of coopers and types of oak on the different types of pinotage; how and when to adjust acidity in determining the ideal pH for the variety; and making outstanding pinotages with consumer-friendly alcohol levels. The results of the Association’s research are freely available, as are those of others such as Stellenbosch University’s Dalene de Beer and Elizabeth Joubert who found that of all red wines, pinotage has the highest antioxidant capacity – resveratrol so strong it’s said that just two glasses of pinotage a day will keep the doctor away!


Since Absa Bank became a partner of the Pinotage Association, the Absa Top 10 competition has become THE means of benchmarking the best wines made from the variety, local sales of pinotage have increased by over 10% a year and pinotage exports have more than doubled. Talk about dreams coming true!


South Africa is blessed with an amazing climate, enhanced by the micro-climates in different regions, the diverse soil types and, of course, its people. Furthermore, there’s a camaraderie that exists between pinotage producers... We will never stop pursuing better and better quality pinotage... We will never stop improving each other’s knowledge about pinotage... We will never stop talking about the uniqueness of pinotage... We will never stop developing an increasingly closer bond between Absa and pinotage... We will never stop praising the Lord for pinotage... And we will never stop drinking this amazing juice...



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