On Pinotage and Natural Wine

Studying for the WSET 3 (Advanced) with a full-time job has proven to be a bit more time consuming than I expected, leaving me with less time to write some of the blog posts I’ve been thinking about.  I’d love to write about the Beaujolais Grand Cru class and tasting I attended several weeks ago and want to explore more vegan food and wine pairings.  Fortunately, one thing that the studying requires of me is tasting and so posts for the next few weeks will probably come out of my tasting exercises or simply the wines I’m exploring to get to know better.

Today I tried a Pinotage by Lammershoek, a natural producer whose white blend I wrote about before. Pinotage is the most widely planted red grape in South Africa and is found virtually nowhere else. It was created by a scientist who crossed two French grapes, Pinot Noir and Cinsaut, in 1925.  His plan was to create a grape that could grow in the warmer harsher climate of South Africa but tasted like a Pinot Noir. He did not succeed.  Pinotage often does not taste like either of its parents.  It can be made in many styles and is sometimes blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, Syrah, or other red grapes to make a “Cape Blend.”  

On its own, it is often described as having both red and black fruit flavors, but some versions can be very rich and spicy.  My first taste of Pinotage was a very earthy and smoky, unlike anything I had had before.  I enjoyed it but appreciate those flavors as more subtle elements in Pinotage now.  

This 2014 Pinotage is lovely but so much lighter and fresher than I expected. This actually might be one of those cases where Pinotage looks like a Pinot Noir.  There was strawberry on the nose, with some mint and stone.  It also tasted fruity with cranberry, strawberry, eucalyptus.  It had a very light body with medium acid and low tannin.  It was great with food.  I would never have guessed this was a Pinotage based on my few experiences with the grape.  

Some of these characteristics, such as freshness, are probably due to this being a natural wine-unfined, unfiltered, and no additives or oak to create the flavors of smoke, charred wood, etc.  Proponents of natural wine claim that these wines are more vibrant and drinkable.  According to Isabelle Legeron, “natural wines tend to be lighter and more ethereal in nature, and those who enjoy them often remark on their freshness and digestibility.”  Count me among those who enjoy natural wine and although this was not the Pinotage I was expecting, I certainly enjoyed it and look forward to seeing how this bottle evolves over the next few days.


Look at how light-bodied that is.



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