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For the Love of the Grape: Pinotage  by Stephen Willson

©JWessel Photography 2016

©JWessel Photography 2016

Pinotage is the Frankenstein of wine, and it’s also delicious! This South African hybrid grape varietal has come a long way since its creation in 1925. As is the case with just about everything in life of poor quality, the grape isn’t what makes the bad examples terrible, but it’s the shady people involved in making it that make the wines terrible. Fortunately, there are winemakers out there who treat this grape varietal with the love and respect it deserves and the end result is exciting and delicious.  


Why is Pinotage the Frankenstein of wine? In 1925, a viticultural scientist at the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, set out to create a new grape varietal that had the finesse and beauty of Pinot Noir without the difficulty that comes with growing this notoriously problematic grape. To do this, he crossed Pinot Noir with Cinsault. Cinsault is a red grape varietal indigenous to Southern France and is known for being rugged, heat resistant, and vigorous. Pinotage is the result of scientists taking characteristics from different grape varietals, combining them together, and then grafting the end result onto rootstock from yet another grape varietal in order to make it disease-resistant. Thus, the Frankenstein of the wine world is born.  


The resulting wine is not at all reminiscent of Pinot Noir. Such is life. Nonetheless, Pinotage grapes can make deliciously rustic and bold red wines. These spicy reds are made in varying styles, from lighter, more easy drinking to seriously bold and rich. Because Pinotage is a lesser known grape varietal, the wines offer a lot of value for the quality.


Gracie’s recently started pouring Warwick Estates ‘Old Bush Vines’ Pinotage. Warwick Estates has been family-owned and operated for three generations. This boutique winery, located in Stellenbosch, South Africa, makes some of South Africa’s most sought-after wines.


The fruit from their Pinotage is sourced from a single vineyard. The nose is complex. Aromas of dried cherries dominate while hints of fresh sage, crushed stones, and new leather dance in the background. The wine has a refreshing acidity that balances out its gripping tannins. Those sour cherries return on the palate along with cranberry, and irony minerality. The slightly bitter finish is reminiscent of black tea. This is tasty juice!  

Get into Pinotage. Get into Warwick Estates. Get into South African wines. The next time you come to Gracie’s, don’t forget to try a glass of this deliciously complex stunner from The Rainbow Nation.

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