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Wine Reviews: Review of Pinotage, Kanonkop Pinotage
Pinotage: The Band-Aid Wine
by: Vino Joe

Wine Reviews Home / Vices Channel / Bullz-Eye Home

There is a supremely unique red wine from a land in the Southern Hemisphere…and I’m not talking about Australia.

Pinotage (PEE-no-tazgh) is not an aged Pinot Noir, though its origin is a cross between the Pinot Noir and Cinsault grapes. And it has nothing to do with Meritage nor Hermitage. It is from South Africa -- the best from the Stellenbosch region -- and does not grow anywhere else. Of course, if US citizens ever purchase enough of it, no doubt there will be a band of Californian wannabe’s scrambling to plant it (UPDATE: apparently, there already are a bunch of idiots in California growing the grape and trying to make a decent wine out of it -- stay away!).

There is cheap Pinotage, which is okay but nothing special, and then there is REAL Pinotage, which will set you back a minimum of 20 bucks and is slightly more common than a classy comment spat by Randy Moss. However, if you like big, bold, earthy, animal-like wines, or if you are the type of person who thinks that great cheese smells like a rat’s ass, then finding a good bottle of Pinotage is well worth the effort.

In other words, this is not a wine for the faint of heart; certainly not something for the white zin crowd. It IS a wine for you if you are not afraid to try new things, think nothing of Cabernets that taste like ashtrays and seek something that will truly taste different.

Pour Pinotage into a large-bowled glass, the kind that a softball can fit in. If you don’t have such a glass, go out and get one. You will want to pour just a few ounces, leaving plenty of room to swish round and round, and then stick your schnozz as far into the glass as you can and take a huge whiff (warning: it may knock you over. Real men only, please!). You’ll smell rich, ripe black fruits, earth, wet leaves, tobacco, leather, a distinctly “animal” smell that the snobs refer to as “barnyard aroma”, and -- believe it or not -- band aids! Yes, a wine CAN smell like band-aids, yet (a) not be bad and (b) be supremely attractive. In an instant, you will either hate this wine, or love it…and you will have not even tasted it yet!

Once you do, you’ll get a lot of big Cabernet-like flavors: cassis (black berry fruits), earth, tobacco. It is a great match with gamey meats, like venison, or Australian angus, or Indian cuisine (curries!), or with the stinkiest, runniest, most illegal, bacteria-filled cheese you can find (think Vacherin or Epoisses). The top brand to look for is Kanonkop; failing that, try Mulderbosch, Bellingham, Warwick Estate, Beyerskloof, Neil Ellis or Simonsig.

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