by Fred McMillin
for October 6, 1998


Drink Smart

The Academic Origins of Today's Wine

Professor Abraham Perold, South African enologist, created the grape in 1925.

Professor C. J. Theron, another South African enologist, improved the grape.

John L. Bree, with an awesome list of degrees from U. Of Oregon, Oregon State and U.C. -Davis, made today's wine in California from South Africa's gift to the red-wine world.

The Grape

So what's the name of the grape? Well, Professor Perold made it by crossing two French red-wine varietals, the light Cinsault (san-so) and the noble Burgundian Pinot Noir. Thus, he called it "Pinosault"? NO. In South Africa, the Cinsault was known as the Hermitage. Hence, the hybrid was named Pino-tage.

The Wine

Sutter RidgeNow, how did third-generation California winemaker John Bree come across the far-away Pinotage? The State Department commissioned John to help jump-start winemaking in certain parts of Asia, Europe and AFRICA! Consequently, John's Sutter Ridge Winery is one of the few in the U.S.A. to have commercial Pinotage production. Here's the result.

1994 Pinotage, Amador County, Sierra Foothills
Sutter Ridge Winery, Sutter Creek, CA.
Wine Characteristics—Considering the difference between the grape's parents, it's not suprising that Pinotage can be made in either a light or a bold style. John Bree chooses the latter, so look for blackberry-smoke-tobacco vigor to pair with lamb, beef, or assorted cheeses.
Phone to the Foothills—(209) 267-1316.


Speaking of Africa, travel-consultant Lynette Peters brought back to her fellow panelists an inexpensive red from Nairobi. It didn't take the enamel off our teeth, but it surely put a tiger in our tank.

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. In 1995, the Academy of Wine Communications honored Fred with one of only 22 Certificates of Commendation awarded to American wine writers.



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