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Pronounced pee-na-taj, this wine is not just any wine but rather a signature South African wine. It derives its name from a blend of Pinot Noir and Hermitage, otherwise known as Cinsault. However, many Saffas and tourists don’t realise that Pinotage wine is steeped in South African history. In fact, the vinification of Pinotage was first completed in South Africa in 1925, thus making it a truly South African wine!

A druppeltjie of history

If you’ve always thought the name sounds primarily French, you would be right. This is because our South African heritage is not only influenced by the Dutch and English but also by the French. Way back when before computers and iPhones (was there ever such a time?), the French protestants settled in the Cape. Thus, the French language infiltrated and influenced the Afrikaans language, leading to a delicious mix of culture, language, and of course, Pinotage!

However, the creation of this delectable wine is down to one man known as the father of Pinotage, Prof Abraham Izak Perold. His academic success at the University of Cape Town and subsequent scouting mission for the best grape varietals in the Cape saw him become the first professor of Viticulture. Moreover, his successful crossing of two grapes eventually saw the first barrel of Pinotage wine produced in Stellenbosch 1941. The rest is a history imbued with the succulent Pinotage flavours we enjoy to this day! 

The low down on Pinotage

Pinotage is a true cross between the Pinot Noir and Hermitage (Cinsault) grapes. It was initially created to take the best from both grape varietals. The Pinot Noir grape is an excellent grape for wine, but it can be challenging to cultivate. At the same time, the Hermitage grape is a sturdier variety capable of growing without too much fuss. It’s thought this was the reasoning behind Prof Perold’s’ ingenious idea of blending the two grape varieties resulting in the South African Pinotage we know and love today.

How to enjoy your Pinotage

Unless you are a wine connoisseur knowing which wines to pair with foods can prove a little tricky. There’s nothing worse than getting the pairing wrong and finding the flavours and bouquet somewhat muddied and distasteful. So, we’ve compiled a list of food that goes well with one of the best South African red wines, Pinotage, of course! Check out the list below!

  • Braai meat, game, smoked meat, and biltong.

It accentuates the smokey flavours of the meat cooked on the coals and enhances the spices of our favourite treat, biltong.

  • Yellowfin tuna, sushi, and oysters.

This is one of the few red wines that go well with fish!

  • Mushrooms, aubergines, and Portobello mushrooms

Pinotage is an excellent match for rich earthy vegetables.

  • Cheddar, gouda, and blue cheese.

These aromatic cheeses are perfectly paired with a young, unwooded Pinotage.

Matured in oak barrels that lend to its vanilla and cedar notes, Pinotage is a full-bodied wine best enjoyed at between 16 C – 18 C.

Pinotage accolades

Since 1987 Pinotage has been the wine to watch, both locally and internationally. Take a quick peek at how the best South African red wine has weathered in the last century.

  • 1987    

The Diners Club Winemaker of the year was dedicated to Pinotage. The winner was Beyers Truter at Kanonkop, the prince of Pinotage! Many wine lovers will agree this was the birth of the best South African Pinotage!

  • 1959

South African National Young Wine Show won by Morkels of Bellevue, with you guessed it, the best Pinotage in the best wine category. In fact, PK Morkel was one of the first wine farmers to plant the Pinotage Varietal on a commercial scale.

  • 1990 – 1991

During this period, things went quiet on the Pinotage wine front. However, the Pinotage cultivar started attracting interest again in 1990.

  • 1991

The Kanonkop Pinotage won the Robert Mondavi Trophy for the ‘Best Red Wine.’ Buyers Truter won was also heralded as the International Winemaker of the Year.

Since its famous step onto the international wine stage in 1991, the Pinotage wine variety has gained popularity amongst local and international palates abroad. Since then, wine competitions have incorporated a separate category for Pinotage wine. In addition, it competes comfortably with many European varieties, capable of holding its own on an international level.

Best Pinotage

While we all agree Pinotage is one of the best South African red wines to be had, knowing which Pinotage to choose and enjoy is now a problem wine lovers globally face. Such a delightful problem to have! With so many decadent varieties to choose from, where does one officially start? To help you with this pesky conundrum, we found a handy list that you can use when selecting your next sumptuous bottle of Pinotage. Take a look at the list provided by Winemag.co.za – here you will find the top 10 Pinotage wines of 2021.

These top ten wines are selected from fifty-eight entries and comprised of forty-six producers. Each is blind taste-tested and scored out of 100 points. It’s a rigorous climb to the top of the Pinotage list!

Last word

Pinotage encapsulates the very essence of South African culture. Perfectly paired with our many braai treats and an excellent wine for sharing with family and friends, the Pinotage wine is definitely local en lekker! However, for those who prefer a cheeky glass of the best Pinotage in their own company, we at FinGlobal salute you, all the more for you!

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