Stop the tinkering and let pinotage be free

Lifestyle

Stop the tinkering and let pinotage be free

Give them time to evolve and you too could come to believe in pinotages, some of which are dominating ratings

Michael Fridjhon

You would have to be deluded to describe the relationship between SA wine drinkers and pinotage as anything except fraught. Even those who are most passionate about it express their enthusiasm as if responding to a series of unspoken challenges. They defend it before (or perhaps while) they promote it. There is an undercurrent that has as its implicit subtext the faint praise of “some of my favourite wines are pinotage”. There’s a long history to this: surely it must now be time to cut the baggage loose and free the best examples to soar unhindered by its burden?

Pinotage is a few years short of turning 100. It was an intentional crossing made by Prof Abraham Perold — one of many such experiments — in which the parentage, as made clear by the name he gave it, was pinot noir and a grape called at the time “hermitage” (but actually cinsault). As crossings are very much part of the natural order of wine, suggestions that pinotage is a “bastard” grape without pedigree can be disposed of without delay. Cabernet sauvignon is a 17th-century spontaneous crossing of cabernet franc and sauvignon blanc.

What he was trying to secure from this unlikely marriage was a descendant with the aromatic qualities of the pinot and the hardiness of the cinsault. Since many cinsaults produced nowadays have the fruit and delicacy normally associated with pinot, this wasn’t such a far-fetched idea...

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