A pinotage day in Franschhoek

That is, there were two good pinotages – one a particularly splendid surprise – but neither of them actually came from Franschhoek, where I last week spent an excellent afternoon and evening.

My early afternoon appointment was with the Bellingham team, who gave me a fine tasting of The Bernard Series – the top range which Niel Groenewald has been making for this DGB label for a few years now. I will report further on all the wines shortly, and just note here how appealing I found the Bush Vine Pinotage 2010.

Having complained recently about how overdone so many top-end pinotages are these days (too much fruity ripeness, alcohol, extraction and sweetness) the Bernard Series version was a treat, from its enticing aromas of cherries, fruitcake and spice onwards. Fairly rich (like all the wines in the Series), and fairly sweet-fruited, it was neither too intense nor too powerful, and with a clean dryish finish. The powdery tannins were firm, but restrained.  Not cheap at something below R200, but a sohisticated wine among the leaders of the often confused and confusing pack of pinotages.

The friend with whom I had dinner at Reuben’s restaurant that evening has a tendency to look for old pinotages on the winelist (rare though it is these days to find winelists, even at decent restaurants, with anything other than the current vintages available; the Reuben’s list is a pretty good one – though you have to ask for proper wine-glasses if you don’t wish to waste a decent wine by drinking out of the thick, chunky goblet-things already on the table). So when we noticed a Scali Pinotage 2000 on the list it was a near certainty what our red would be.

The white we chose, incidentally, was the KWV Mentors Grenache Blanc 2010 which was initially closed and rather simple, but opened up with some air and became as satisfactory and interesting as I remembered it.  I’d drunk it twice before, but only from long-opened bottles. If anyone else is planning on drinking it over the next six months at least, I’d recommend decanting or otherwise aerating it thoroughly.

Although I have often admired Scali Pinotage, I had my doubts as to whether this bottle was going to give much pleasure. It was only the second Pinotage vintage of this interesting Voor-Paardeberg (nothern Paarl) winery which was then in the process of joining the revolution happening on the Paardeberg, and diverting grapes from the co-op it had long supplied. And 2000 was generally a difficult pinotage vintage – tough and very tannic.

But the wine was lovely, surely at the peak of its development, with some pure clear fruit still, but made more complex and interesting by it’s time in bottle. If the tannins had once been excessive, they were now certainly just firmly informative. Everything was nicely in balance, and this was an honest, serious wine – a good accompaniment to dinner and a fine advertisement for 10+year-old Cape reds in general, and mature pinotage in particular. In fact it was, as I recall, showing better than the Kanonkop 1998 which was my last dining-out experience with mature pinotage. That was from the superb list at Aubergine in Cape Town.

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