Blending in Not Always that Simple if your name is Pinotage

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Cape Blend winners: From left are Francois van Niekerk of Windmeul, Willie Zastron (General Manager: Absa Commercial Business Western Cape), Christiaan Coetzee of KWV and Anri Truter of Beyerskloof.

As a nation of half-castes without any of those long and pure lineages bordering on the incestuous, the South’s trend towards a bastardisation of wines is understandable. Of late it has become increasingly vogue for South African wine producers to force a variety of grape varieties to have carnal relations with each other, hence the proliferation of Blends.

Wines blended from white and red Rh?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ne blends are currently all the vogue due to the interest in all things Mediterranean. But blends have always been around, having played a major role in creating and sustaining generations of wine-drinkers. Think Chateau Libertas and Tassenberg, as well as the late La Gratitude white blend.

The arrival of the concept of the Cape Blend some 10 years ago was thus not in a vacuum, although I initially thought it referred to Mark Lottering or Trevor Noah. Nope. Cape Blend was and still is a blended wine category punting itself as a blend with a hefty whack of our beloved indigenous Pinotage variety. No less than 30% and no more than 70%.

Unlike said Mark Lottering or Trevor Noah, however, the vinous Cape Blend has had a hard time marketing itself. The problem was that the marketers of this category eschewed the journalism dictum of ?+¦?+º?+¦assumption is the mother of all stuff-ups?+¦?+º?+æ. In typically laid-back style, the Pinotage marketers assumed the consumer would immediately understand the Cape Blend concept due to the fact that (a) Pinotage is Cape and (b) this Blend is unique and locally lekker.

Not so. Chucking Pinotage with other red varieties such as Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Shiraz and in a diverse variety of percentages is about as comprehensible as the motley crew who have thrown their weight behind the wine industry’s rebellious Wieta organisation.

The Cape Blend has thus been poorly communicated in terms of stylistic features, uniqueness and overall identity. The result is that ten years after it hit the press, far more wine consumers know what a Bordeaux or Rh?+¦-ú?+¦+¦ne blended wine is than the Cape version with which they should be more familiar.

Recently the second version of the Perold Absa Cape Blend competition was held, and it can only be hoped that this event will lead to a greater appreciation for a category which delivers some really decent wines.

This year a total of 42 wines from 33 producers were entered in the competition, from which the judges selected five finalists from which three winners were chosen, namely Beyerskloof Faith 2009, KWV Perold Tributum 2010 and the Windmeul Reserve Cape Blend 2010.

Looking at the difference in the make-up of the top three decent wines.

t can only be hoped that this event will lead to a , one will appreciate the degree of complexity the judges must have dealt with.

The Beyerskloof blend comprises 37% Pinotage, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 27% Merlot and 9% Shiraz; the KWV blend is 36% Pinotage, 27% Cabernet Sauvignon, 22% Shiraz, 5% Petit verdot, 5% Tannat and 5% Malbec, while the Windmeul blend has 60% Pinotage, 30% Cabernet Sauvignon, 5% Merlot and 5% Petit verdot.

What, thus, do judges look for?

With Pinotage being the umbilical cord with which the blend wishes to differentiate itself, does one assess the assertiveness of the Pinotage factor or the total combination? For example, the Pinotage is pretty masked in the KWV Perold Tributum, while it sits nicely at the front of the Windmeul blend?

However, when it came to tasting the wines these queries did not matter. The top three wines were all excellent individual works that shared no common features whatsoever apart from them being red, full and dry.

The Beyerskloof Faith 2009 is a monster of a wine that is set to be one of South Africa’s greats it was pushed as a ringer into a recent Bordeaux-line-up I attended and shared top honours with a Kanonkop Paul Sauer.

KWV’s Tributum oozes New World smokiness through the whack of Shiraz. And the Windmeul Blend displays some elegant Burgundian earthiness, the Pinotage pushing the Cabernet Sauvignon to one side.

The two runners-up out of the five finalists were the Grangehurst Nikela 2005 (34% Pinotage, 35% Cabernet Sauvignon, 23% Shiraz and 8% Merlot) and Lyngrove Platinum Latitude 2011 (40% Pinotage, 40% Cabernet Sauvignon and 20% Shiraz).

Throw these two wines in the mix with the three winners, and it becomes clear that the one thing Cape Blends share is mind-boggling diversity.

Pulling it together in one category is thus kind of challenge South Africans should be familiar with.

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One thought on “Blending in Not Always that Simple if your name is Pinotage

  1. Well said. I agree that the diversity of this Cape blend is vast. How do you suggest we narrow it down? Is it at all possible?

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