Pinotage (a cross between pinot noir and cinsault) is the signature grape of South Africa, and to some it remains an acquired taste, never really having caught on in the international scene. Vineyard Brands recently sent four 2019 releases of its South African pinotage imports for our review — all hailing from different regions. Does terroir make a difference with this fickle grape? Let’s find out, with this quartet of reviews.
2017 Man Family Wines Pinotage Bosstok Coastal Region – Classically styled and quite approachable, this wine melds a lightly beefy character with notes of cranberry, cherry, and plum — some fresh, some dried. A touch of spice and cedar add complexity, though on the whole this comes across as straightforward and balanced between its sweet and savory components. Excellent value. B+ / $12
2018 Southern Right Pinotage Walker Bay – Unfortunately restrained, with heavy notes of ground beef and tallow in lieu of fruit, which materializes only in service of a balsamic, dried cherry note. While the balance between these two flavors makes for a moderately approachable wine, the finish falls back on the meatier characteristics of the wine, leading to a slightly tough, gummy conclusion. B- / $33
2017 Lievland Pinotage Bushvine Paarl – Lots of balsamic on this wine, the natural meatiness of the wine restrained, allowing a heavy acidity, astringent at times, to shine through. The finish is rather green and quite tight, demonstrating a surprising youth along with a racy and bright berry character. A curious pepper note on the finish. B / $19
216 Ashbourne Pinotage Hemel-en-Aarde Valley – Despite the fancy, paper-wrapped bottle, this wine exhibits many of the same characteristics as more pedestrian pinotage bottlings, namely an intense beefy character paired with an acidic, balsamic note. A leather and tobacco note give the wine significant austerity, though that harsh sourness on the back end gives pause. B / $58