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Home Winners > Winners 2012 > NEW WORLD: Pinotage

Winner Details

New World: Pinotage

A first stand-alone outing for Pinotage led to many tasters questioning their own prejudices. This was a decent showing for South Africa’s Marmite grape 

The South Africans blitzed the Sommelier Wine Awards this year, with a biltong-flavoured avalanche of entries across all categories. So it’s perhaps no surprise to see Pinotage get its own category for the first time. What is surprising, though, is that it did OK.

This is partly a reflection on the grape itself, which (to put it politely) is unlikely to make it onto most sommeliers’ Desert Island drinks list, but also on the fact that whenever we separate a category off from the Other Reds section, the first year is usually a disaster. Zin, Cab/Shiraz and Carmenère were all brought to a wide-eyed, terrified halt in their first outing.

But not this time!

Tasters were at the ‘astonished’ end of the ‘surprised’ spectrum. Tellingly, nobody who tasted the wines had any Pinotage on their restaurant list, yet they were reaching for the superlatives. The wines were described, variously, as being ‘a great flight’ that ‘confounded expectations of old-style Pinotage’ with ‘bags of supple red fruit’ and ‘clear (good) varietal character’.

Here, credit must go to the Saffers for having whatever the Afrikaans equivalent is of cojones to put in some pricier wines as well as the sub-£10 bottles that the variety is best known for.

‘If you are serving steak, many of these wines would be just the thing,’ said journalist Sarah Jane Evans MW, as she attempted to rationalise a flight of wines that had reduced her shell-shocked tasters to pale-faced silence. ‘There was a good blend of fruit and spiciness – they would be a good point of difference.’

Although none made the final step onto the Gold List, this was still a good showing from a grape variety that has a way to go to convince sommeliers that it’s a must-stock to rival, say, Argentinian Malbec, even though what Sarah Guignard of The French Table called its appealing ‘smoky, meaty flavours’ have clear food-matching potential.

‘This was a good place to look for wines that you could drink both on their own and with food. The best would suit a gastropub very well.’ Mark Thornton, The Bell, Fetcham

‘There would be a price ceiling because of Pinotage’s reputation, but there were some good wines here that would work on the list for people having meaty dishes.’ Antoine Dugand, Le Pont de la Tour