The Best Pinotage in the World

By Andrew Barrow

I attended today a tasting and lunch featuring this year’s winners of the Barclays/ABSA Top 10 Pinotage Competition, regarded by South Africa’s passionate Pinotage makers as the most prestigious wine accolade they can obtain.

The London tasting had several of the winemakers presenting their winning wines. There was Danie Steytler of Kaapzicht Estate, who has won 4 ABSA Top 10 awards over the ten years the competition has been run. His winning Steytler Pinotage 2001 is full-bodied with luscuious ripe fruit and an impressive structure.

During lunch I sat next to Frans Smit, the cellar master from the Spier Wine Estate in Stellenbosch. His wine, the 2002 Spier Private Collection Pinotage, was a joy. Ripe berry flavours complemented by vanilla and coffee undertones that matched the duck course superbly.

I also managed to discuss the winemaking techniques with one of South Africa’s leading women wine makers. Debbie Burden, who makes wine at Simonsig and who was judged Women Winemaker of the Year in 2005. She was certainly passionate about Pinotage and believes she has settled on a distinct style of wine in the seven years she has been at Simonsig. Her winning wine, the 2003 Simonsig Redhill Pinotage, is a stunning wine and certainly my favourite of the tasting. Small yields produced a rich, concentrated wine packed with a plummy/mulberry fruitiness underlying a spicy vanilla background. Delicious.

I hope to get proper tasting notes posted on spittoon over the next few days. In the meantime I can recommend the La Cave 2004 Pinotage be served with a Chocolate Seville Torte. While I’m usually not one for dry red wines with dessert, this particular match was surprisingly good with the sweet-fruited La Cave.

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