by Fred McMillin
for May 1, 1997

Pinot Noir's Kissin' Cousin

Prologue: What was new in 1925? Well, there was a new magazine called "The New Yorker." There was a new auto called the Chrysler. There was a new Picasso, "The Three Dancers ...and in the South African nursery of Professor A.I. Perold there was a new grape called the Pinotage.

The Rest of the Story: Professor Perold's hybrid of the Pinot Noir was not an instant sucess. But some 35 years later it made headlines by winning a major competition. Today, it is arguably South Africa's most important red wine grape.

We have a fine example. It was made by Jan Momberg from grapes grown on the family's 321 acres of vines. They are located in the prominent Stellenbosch (rhymes with "wash") district, where the grapes were grown for that first blockbuster. Jan makes his Pinotage to age. He does his part. Before he released this 1991 it spent 20 months in French oak and then four years in glass. The result is a medium-body red with no rough edges and lots of Pinot-like aromas and berry flavors. I encounter a Pinotage occasionally, and this is the most pleasing I've tasted. If you like Pinot Noir, you should try this new, 20th century relative. Serve with ham, veal or smoked turkey.

1991 Pinotage, Stellenbosch District
Republic of South Africa
Middelvlei Estate Winery
Stellenbosch, Cape of Good Hope

Category: Recommended, particularly for those who enjoy new flavors

Postscript: Prof. Perold's new grape was a cross of Pinot Noir and Cinsault. So why did he name it Pinotage? Well, at that time in South Africa, the Cinsault was called Hermitage...thus, Pinotage.

About the Writer

Fred McMillin, a veteran wine writer, has taught wine history for 30 years on three continents. He currently teaches wine courses at San Francisco State and San Francisco City College and is Northern California Editor for American Wine on the Web. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.

Read more articles by Fred McMillin in the eGGsf

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