jamie goode's wine blog

Sunday, January 03, 2010

Pendock: stirring up trouble on Pinotage

Slightly confused by a recent blog post by South African wine journalist Neil Pendock here. He quotes some comments I made (some time ago) on Pinotage.

Yes, I can understand how my hyperbolic, tongue-in-cheek remarks might have upset those who believe, like Pendock, that Pinotage is 'the national grape and the USP of South African wine'. But I don't see why he has to bring Wines of South Africa (WOSA) into it in the way he does.

Is he suggesting that WOSA should blacklist foreign press who are critical of Pinotage? Or that, if a journalist is hosted by WOSA, it is bad form, or impolite, for them to then be critical of any aspect of South African wine? [I'd have thought that WOSA is doing well if it reaches out to those members of the foreign press who are unconverted, or who are agnostic.]

Actually, I'm a friend of South African wine, as you'll see from the very positive coverage I've given to its top producers. But I disagree with Pendock about Pinotage.

I've had very good examples of Pinotage, but in terms of the South African wine industry moving forwards, Pinotage is not the USP he claims it to be. It should remain an important story in South African wine, but I think that the great examples of this variety are very few and far between. It's very difficult to make world class Pinotage.

South Africa's fine wine dimension is growing, and it's an exciting scene. But very few of the producers making world class wines are concentrating on Pinotage - most are avoiding it.

And as for the coffee-style Pinotages he refers to, they're an absurdity. Honestly.

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Thursday, July 03, 2008

More on the coffee pinotage, and Bertus 'Starbucks' Fourie

A few days ago I blogged, slightly tongue-in-cheek, about Pinotage and Diemersfontein's remarkable coffee-n'-chocolate example (although, of course, I was serious when I said Pinotage sucks and anyone who likes it lacks a decent palate).

Well here's some more information on it, gleaned from a number of sources, including Peter May's excellent site here, Grape here, and Wine here.

The winemaker at Diemersfontein who 'invented' this coffee and chocolate style was Bertus Fourie, who, because of his work, is widely known as Bertus 'Starbucks' Fourie. He was hired by KWV in 2005 to create their Cafe Culture Pinotage, and then left KWV in May this year for a boutique venture called Val de Vie (read more here).

According to Grape, the owners of Diemersfontein were not pleased that he left taking his 'recipe' with him (see here). They even went as far as initiating legal action. So what is this recipe?

The fruit is ripe, without much greenness. The destemmed grapes are hand sorted to remove any green material. But the key aspect is the wood, which in this case consists of staves in tanks. I'm guessing that there is something about the wood - perhaps the toasting process - that is causing those distinctive coffee/chocolate flavours, rather than the vanilla/coconut lactones that normally come from oak.

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Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A crazy Pinotage and two from Waitrose

I can't help, when it comes to Pinotage, descending to a level of criticism that I object to when I see it from others, if you know what I mean. I become dogmatic and opinionated.

Normally, I reckon I'm an open-minded sort of guy. I embrace diversity. Live and let live; see the best in everything; every cloud has a silver lining; everyone deserves a second chance.

But Pinotage is vile. In fact, I've thought of both a new competition, and also a new way to assess wine show judges based on this variety. The new competition is for the World's Least Vile Pinotage, and perhaps I should brand this with my name to make it an excercise in ugly self-promotion (as some other, nameless, writers do with top 100s and the like). And the new way to assess wine show judges is to give them a glass of Pinotage. If they say it's OK, they're sacked. If they dislike it, they are in. If they take a sip, cuss loudly and expel the contents from their mouths rapidly, then they are senior judges.

Anyway, I think I have found a potential winner for my competition. It's the Diemersfontein Pinotage 2007 Wellington, South Africa. The back label reads:
'This is the one! The original coffee/chocolate Pinotage now in its seventh great vintage. It befriends - it converts - it seduces'

You know, Diemersfontein have sussed Pinotage. The way to make it work is to mask the flavours of the grape. This wine really does smell of coffee and chocolate, and it is seductive. There's a hint of roast bacon here, as well. The fruit is sweet, and it's actually quite delicious, in a rather strange, slightly weird way. This is available in the UK from Asda, and it's probably my favourite expression of Pinotage.

Also tasted tonight, with a barbecue after watching elder son play cricket (golden duck this time, alas, and after we'd spent ages in the nets trying to work on some sort of defensive strategy), a couple from Waitrose which go well with this balmy summer's evening. They're from the Waitrose own-label range, which are sort of hybrid 'in partnership with' wines.

The first is a beautifully balanced, rich Sauvignon from Villa Maria (Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc 2007) that's really delicious. The second is a Barossa Shiraz 2006 Reserve from St Hallett, which is smooth and pure with nice texture and a hint of vanilla and chocolate. It's suave and stylish, if a little primary.

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Friday, April 18, 2008

Sauvignon and Pinotage: confronting prejudice

You'd think after a week of tasting some 500 wines, I'd be running away from the stuff. Aversion therapy, I think they call it.

Not a bit of it. Instead, my palate is like an athelete's body, finely honed by an intensive training regime, and working with even greater precision and discriminative power. [Deliberately silly, this bit.]

Two prejudices to face head-on, tonight. First, that Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc is dull and predictable. Second, that all Pinotage is vile, filthsome stuff. Both prejudices prove to be ill-founded, on this occasion at least.

Mud House Sauvignon Blanc 2007 Marlborough, New Zealand
This is deliciously concentrated and fresh, with a lively, assertive cut-grass and green pepper herbaceousness, as well as piercing lemony, grapefruit pith fruit. A wake-up call to the palate. Deliciously intense and well balanced, this is a versatile wine that would match up well with some of the strong flavours of modern fusion cuisine. 90/100 (12, UK agent MMD Ltd)

Sizanani Pinotage 2006 Stellenbosch, South Africa
40% of this brand is owned by an employees trust (http://www.sizanani-wines.co.za/). It's a really gluggable, fruit-forward wine with soft sweet berry and dark cherry fruits countered by a bitter, plummy, tarry, slightly rubbery twist. The overall effect is of a juicy red wine with a sense of deliciousness and enough savouriness to make it work with take-away pizza or spaghetti bolognaise. It takes the slightly negative features of Pinotage and turns them into positives in the context of this wine, so I think it's worthwhile in the right context. 83/100 (5.99 Oddbins)

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Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Cricket and greenness

Been at the cricket this evening, watching my sons play for the U11s. Elder son is a regular - he opens the batting and normally gets quite a few runs. Was bowled for just 4 today though (the moment is pictured, although the 'welfare officer' for the team we were playing was unhappy about me taking pictures...I think he wanted me to get parental consent forms signed from all the players...such is the modern world). Younger son is two years below in school, but gets the occasional U10 and even U11 game. Tonight he was keeping wicket, and did OK. It was fun to see elder son bowling, and younger son keeping wicket together.

Tonight I'm drinking Mellasat M 2003 Paarl, South Africa (see http://www.mellasat.com/). It's beautifully packaged in a Burgundy-shaped bottle. A blend of Cabernet, Syrah and Pinotage, this is a deep coloured wine with a nose of fresh, subtly green dark fruits. There's a nice savouriness here. The palate has more savoury, spicy dark fruit, but this is joined by a herby greenness. It would have been a really nice, understated, food-friendly red wine, but the green streak - which on the nose adds freshness and works quite well - is too obtrusive on the palate, and for me is a big distraction. Greenness at a certain level can be a good thing - it's an important component of many great Bordeaux wines, for example. But here, in conjunction with ripe fruit and at this sort of level, it verges on the faulty. There's still some enjoyment to be had from this wine, and if it could lose its greenness it would be really nice. Like so many South African reds... 82/100

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Saturday, January 06, 2007

Petit Pinotage

It has been a wet old day over here in west London. It started early when Rosie woke up at 05.17. Then some good friends arrived back from 4 weeks in Australia seeing family, and had to rouse us at 06.38 to pick up a key for their house. They are coming to lunch tomorrow, and I'm eager to hear how they got on - it was their first visit to Aus, but I can see them emigrating there...

I took youngest son over to the Two Rivers retail complex in Staines to spend some of his Christmas money. Staines battles it out with various Medway towns for the title of the UK's Chav capital, and Two Rivers is where Chavs really love to hang out. Still, I managed to find myself some decent running shoes, and youngest son purchased a Playstation game and a hip-hop/rap CD (he isn't allowed CDs labelled 'parental guidance', which severely limits his choice in this musical genre).

Tonight's wine is a cheapie. It's Ken Forrester's Petit Pinotage 2005, which is 4.48 from Asda. I like it, as much as I can really like Pinotage. Perhaps that sounds a bit negative, but i'm just being honest. By not taking Pinotage too seriously - and interpreting it as a good-time, slightly off-the-wall variety - Ken has made an attractive, juicy berry fruited red with some green herbal and medicinal Pinotage funk, in a format where this funk helps add to the fun character of the wine. I'd serve this wine slightly chilled with honest, rustic fare. It has edges, and these are all too often lacking in inexpensive wines. The packaging is great, too.

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Sunday, November 05, 2006

Stunning sirens

UK-based South African wine brand Stormhoek certainly talk a good game. Do their wines match up to the largely self-generated hype?

I was sent through their two new 'Siren' wines. I was gobsmacked by their appearance. They look absolutely stunning. I showed them to Fiona, and she agreed. They bottles are made from clear glass, but rather than have a standard punt at the bottom they've got a lovely solid sort of chunky glass foot to them. It's hard to describe properly, but it looks impressive. Label design is spot on. Visually, these wines are incredibly appealing, and despite what we'd like to believe, appearance matters a fair bit.

The bottles are screwcapped, but Stormhoek have done their closures homework and the caps have the saranex-only liner. On the back label there is an innovative freshness indicator, telling punters when the wines will drink best.

Reassuringly, it's not just style without substance. The liquid in the bottle is impressive, as I hope my notes below indicate. At 7.99 these are very good value.

Stormhoek The Siren Pinotage 2005 Western Cape, South Africa
Beautifully packaged in clear glass, this Pinotage has a ripe, sweet, subtly meaty nose with bright red fruits and a subtle green herbal edge. The palate is juicy and vibrant with nice ripe juicy fruit and some meatiness. It's a very well mannered Pinotage and the trace of greenness works well in combination with the chocolatey richness. Quite delicious. Very good+ 87/100 7.99

Stormhoek The Siren Sauvignon Blanc 2006 Western Cape, South Africa
Full, perfumed, fresh grassy nose with lots of fruit. The palate is zippy with nice balance between the ripe fruit and the grassy freshness. A stylish, full-flavoured Sauvignon with real appeal. Assured winemaking here. Very good+ 88/100 7.99

Stockists lists: Sauvignon Blanc (Define Food and Wine, Cheshire; Imbibros, Godalming; Vineyards, Sherborne; BV Liquormart, London; The Vineking, Reigate; Worth Brothers, Lichfield; Vinology, Stratford-upon-Avon; Magnum Wine, Swindon; EWGA, Silverdale, Lancashire; Wines in Cornwall; Wines of the World, Earlsfield, London; Denby Dale Wines, Yorkshire; Harrogate Fine Wines.

Pinotage (Define Food and Wine, Cheshire; Imbibros, Godalming; Vineyards, Sherborne;
BV Liquormart, London; The Vineking, Reigate; Worth Brothers, Lichfield; Vinology, Stratford-upon-Avon; Magnum Wine, Swindon; EWGA, Silverdale, Lancashire; Wines in Cornwall;
Wines of the World, Earlsfield, London; Denby Dale Wines, Yorkshire; Harrogate Fine Wines)

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