Doing different things with pinotage

Tastes differ – this is the simple rule that those bold enough to advise others should strive to remember. Take Amarula Cream. I have a somewhat shamefaced love of kitsch cream liqueurs like this, but an admirable friend of mine once remarked that she wouldn’t drink the stuff even if it were poured over Brad Pitt. So when I feel brave in even uncorking the latest offering from KWV, with nothing like Brad available, I remind myself that millions of bottles have probably been made, in confident anticipation of mass success.

Why not? This new wine builds on the rampant success of coffee- and chocolate-flavoured pinotage, of which dozens of allusively-named versions are now available – surely to the despair of the higher-minded Pinotage Association. The flavours are derived from toasty oak, by the way.  Other grape varieties have also fallen victim, so we have, for example, Boplaas Tinta Chocolat from tinta barroca, and Vrede en Lust’s Mocholate Malbec.

KWV was an early player in the coffee pinotage racket, with Café Culture. Now, extending that wine into a range, we have Chocmousse – the admittedly brilliant name of a luridly packaged sparkling version. Sparkling red wines are rare, though not unknown, especially in Australia, but it is surely (so far?) unique to have a bubbly pinotage with “a distinct mocha and delicate chocolate mousse character”. It is best served chilled, the back-label burbles on, making a good point, and is to be “enjoyed with like-minded individuals”. To forestall sneers from wine-snobs, no doubt.

In fact, my trepidations were absurd. I tried Chocmousse (R60) alongside the standard unbubbly Café Culture (R45). Both are perfectly agreeable, albeit a little sluttish. Mind you, take this judgement as coming from someone who likes Amarula as well as austere old-style Bordeaux (Chocmousse is somewhat closer to the former). The mocha character is not too pronounced. It shows more in the still version, which is also thicker-textured, has a chunkier alcohol level and more of an astringent bite to it.

On Chocmousse I found extra fruitiness in the form of ripe loganberry charm, if you are susceptible to that sort of thing, merging pleasantly into the coffee notes. And yes, chocolate mousse on the finish, as the flavour fades (rather too quickly). It’s a touch sweeter on the tongue, more fun, more easily charming. Don’t expect interest  – but then why should you?

A more classic version of pinotage that I tried recently comes from Lemberg, a tiny producer in the Tulbagh valley, famous in the 1970s and’80s as the estate where Janey Muller, arguably the Cape’s first professional woman winemaker, made some worthwhile wines. Later Lemberg went through troubled times but now, with another new owner, it’s being revived.

David Sadie (unrelated to the as yet more renowned Eben) looks after the vineyards and winemaking, and does it well. He also has his own label, David, about which more needs to be said, soon. The Lemberg 2010 pinotage is called Spencer, and has an elegance which I’ve learnt is a sort of calling card of David Sadie’s wines. Spencer (not underpriced at R150) is powerful, but also fresh and lively, with a delicate perfume, and none of the jammy sweetness or over-robust tannins which can mark this variety.

There’s no espresso influence at all and no Sparkling Spencer lined up, so it’s possibly doomed.

From the Mail & Guardian, 20-26 Junly 2012

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