Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Pinotage Recommendations: Kanonkop Kadette Rosé & Lion's Drift

Why is Pinotage still such a divisive grape? In the past, there might have been some Pinotage wines that evidenced a nasty, burnt rubber aroma and taste, but that has largely vanished. Today's Pinotage wines have never been better, offering intriguing and compelling flavors and aromas. I have long been a fan of this grape and strongly recommend that all wine lovers check out these wines. Forget your old prejudices and give Pinotage another chance.

For more information about Pinotage, you might want to start with a fascinating book devoted to this grape, Pinotage: Behind The Legends Of South Africa's Own Wine by Peter May, which is now available as an ebook too. I previously reviewed this book and urge all wine lovers to check it out. Peter tells a compelling story and you will learn much.

I recently tasted two delicious Pinotage wines, including a Rosé, and both of these wines should convince skeptics of the wonders of this grape.

"Pinotage is the juice extracted from women's tongues and lions' hearts. After having a sufficient quantity one can talk forever and fight the devil."
--On a sign in the tasting room of the Kanonkop winery in South Africa.

The Kanonkop Wine Estate is one of the top wineries in South Africa and they produce some of the best Pinotage in the world. Located on the lower slopes of the Simonsberg Mountain in the Stellenbosch region, Kanonkop is a fourth generation family estate. The estate has about 100 hectares of vineyards, roughly 50% planted with Pinotage. Their Pinotage wines are complex, elegant and absolutely satisfying.  

Only recently though did I taste their Rosé, the 2011 Kanonkop Kadette Pinotage Rosé ($12), which is made from 100% Pinotage. If you tasted this blind, you never would realize that it was Pinotage as it doesn't fit any stereotype of a typical Pinotage profile. There were no smoky or bacon flavors. Instead, it was an easy drinking Rosé with tasty red fruit flavors, including raspberry and cherry. Excellent acidity, plenty of character, and a pleasant finish. It was more Old World in nature and I couldn't drink enough of it. It is an excellent food wine, as well as enjoyable on its own. Highly recommended and a very good value.

The 2009 Lion's Drift Pinotage ($18), from the Silkbush Mountain Vineyards, is another wine that is likely to surprise Pinotage haters. I received this wine as a media sample and it presents more of a New World flavor profile.

Silkbush Mountain Vineyards are located in the Breede River Valley and this is their first wine available in the U.S. The estate was purchased in 2000 by Californian Dave Jefferson and a group of American investors though it is managed by Anton Roos, a South African viticulturist. For more info on this winery, check out an informative article written by Peter May. The first vintage of Lion's Drift was 2008, so this wine was only the second vintage.

The 2009 Lion's Drift spent about 13 months in new French oak and has an alcohol content of 14.5%. This is a more fruit forward Pinotage, lush flavors of plum, black cherry and blackberry with a hint of vanilla and touch of spice. It is easy drinking with a good acidity and satisfying finish. It is very pleasant on its own, though would also pair well with foods such as burgers or pizza. This Pinotage is going to please many wine lovers and I give it my strong recommendation.

Stop hating Pinotage! Forget your preconceptions and just start tasting them again. I know you will be surprised at how good they taste.


Alana said...

Richard, thanks for the terrific review of Lion's Drift. I have tremendous respect for you as a critic and it means a lot. Our Lion's Drift Syrah is on a boat right now heading for the USA. Our first vintage to hit American shores. Very excited to taste it. I also love being in the same article as a Kanonkop wine, a personal favorite of mine as well. I have not had their Rose and will look for it. Cheers, Alana Gentry (Marketing & Promotions Director, Silkbush Mountain VIneyards)

Anonymous said...

My friends and I had zero experience with Pinotage and were introduced to it with the 2009 Lion's Drift. Now we're fans big time. Your description is apt, and it is a super value as well.

Bruce H Alexander
St Petersburg, FL

Todd - VT Wine Media said...

I've not been thrilled by Pinotage in the past, but definitely need to give it a closer look. Earlier this year, we did a panel tasting of sustainable, organic, and BioD wines for Earth Day, and the Stellar Organics 2010 Pinotage was the favorite red.
Given reports of decreased production and increasing wine prices worldwide, the ample supply coming from South Africa is expected to be a place for consumers to find good value.

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