Absa Top 10 Pinotage: Wine Some, Lose Some

The winners of the 2009 Absa Top 10 Pinotage Competition share a special moment at the Val de Vie Wine and Polo Estate near Paarl. Front from left are Anri Truter (Beyerskloof), Francois van Niekerk (Windmeul), James Slabbert (Managing Executive of Absa Corporate and Business Bank), Fred Viljoen (Viljoensdrift) and Danielle le Roux (Lyngrove). Behind from left are Ab+¬ Beukes (Darling Cellars/Onyx), Clinton Le Sueur (Longridge), Abrie Beeslaar (Kanonkop), Etienne Louw (Altydgedacht), Gerhard Swart (Flagstone) and Thys Loubser (KWV/Cathedral Cellar).
The winners of the 2009 Absa Top 10 Pinotage Competition share a special moment at the Val de Vie Wine and Polo Estate near Paarl. Front from left are Anri Truter (Beyerskloof), Francois van Niekerk (Windmeul), James Slabbert (Managing Executive of Absa Corporate and Business Bank), Fred Viljoen (Viljoensdrift) and Danielle le Roux (Lyngrove). Behind from left are Ab+¬ Beukes (Darling Cellars/Onyx), Clinton Le Sueur (Longridge), Abrie Beeslaar (Kanonkop), Etienne Louw (Altydgedacht), Gerhard Swart (Flagstone) and Thys Loubser (KWV/Cathedral Cellar).

THE Absa Top 10 Pinotage Competition has always been a unique opportunity to spend the day drinking the best Pinotage wines in the world. (Pause for fact: Most of the planet’s Pinotage is made in SA, so you ain’t going to find a party like this anywhere else on earth.) Okay, so what happens is that each year a whole whack of South African Pinotage producers enter the Absa Top 10. The wines are whittled down to a 20 by a group of esteemed judges, from which the best 10 are selected. The winners each get an applause, a certificate and a glass mounted on a piece of wood. This year’s Top 10 winners included the usual suspects as well as a few surprises. Let’s start with the surprises. The Altydgedacht Pinotage 2008, a truly splendid wine, became the first Pinotage from the Durbanville region to feature in the Top 10. Along with the selection of the Onyx Pinotage 2006 in the Top 10, this wine also showed that the Pinotage judges were shaking off their prejudice against cool climate Pinotages. (Where has Groot Constantia been in this competition, for example?) The Darling displayed a macho gritty earthiness, while the Altydgedacht was as delicate as a gay choir-boy during a maiden recital. Both these wines displayed delicious variation found in Pinotage and made this year’s exercise worthwhile. Staying on the surprise front, it was grand to see the KWV squeaking in with the Cathedral Cellar Pinotage 2006. So the lights have not quite gone out yet at this confused establishment, and before it does, I’d get some of this wine. Dark and brooding, it hosts an array of Pinotage features, from the smell of just-groomed pedigree Dachshund to the dollops of cherry and marmite. On the usual suspect side, the Kanonkop 2005 was typically gorgeous and the oldest wine among the Top 10. What Kanonkop does well, time-and-time again, is to harness the brashness of Pinotage into a smooth yet expressive core. Talking of smooth, the Beyerskloof Diesel Pinotage 2007 makes Richard Gere look like Bakkies Botha. It is velvet and perfumed undergarments and drinking splendidly, although I wonder if it has enough tannin testicles to make it last over five years. Other Tops included the Flagstone Writer’s Block Pinotage 2007, Longridge Pinotage 2007, Lyngrove Platinum Pinotage 2007, Viljoensdrift River Grandeur 2008 and Windmeul Reserve Pinotage 2008. I missed at least one of the enticing mocha numbers that are becoming all the vogue, though, and really hope that judges are not being dictated to and told to best avoid this style at the moment.

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