A cross between Cinsault & Pinot Noir, it's bolder than both it's parents, tasting closer to a Shiraz, it's a BBQ-friendly wine that's dark, bold and high tannin that has become South Africa's second most planted grape.
Created in 1925, it's faced a whole history of ups & downs. Mostly downs really. Before 1925, Pinot Noir was a struggling grape, so Abraham Perold grafted it with Cinsault to create a wine as delicious as Pinot Noir, but grew productively like Cinsault. The result was an unexpectedly dark & bold high tannin wine.
Unfortunately, because of the productivity, it was previously produces to make low quality table wine, giving it a bad reputation. Only in the last 15-20 years, did winemakers realise the need to pay more attention to the wine making & create quality styles with this grape. They focused on reducing yields to concentrate it's profile, and paid more attention to winemaking techniques to create the dense & bold style people are familiar with now.
Notes of plum, dried fig, blackberry, cocoa, and oddly enough, the smokyness of roasted meats. In the best vintages, red fruit flavors like raspberry, licorice & bell peppers can also be found. What's beautiful about PInotage is the savory notes of tobacco & hoisin sauce that come through, with a sweet notes on the finish.
Try it with something that has elements of teriyaki, plum sauce, barbecue. Hong Kong Style Duck, Japanese Yakitori, Asian Rub BBQ Meats
Note: As it's a very volatile grape, bad Pinotage will have a pungent aroma, similar to nail polish remover. This is due to high levels of "bad acid" called acetic acod. Another issue that occurs with Pinotage is over-extraction, which will give it a note of burnt tar, due to it being in contact with the skin & seeds for too long.
It's rarely grown outside of South Africa. Pinotage is mostly grown in the Western Cape area of South Africa, and is produced in both single varietal & Cape blend wines, where it's blended with Merlot or Cabernet Sauvignon. It's also produced in a Port style fortified wine.
Outside of South Africa, it is grown sparingly in USA, as well as Brazil, Canada, Israel & Zimbabwe. Arizona, California, Michigan, Oregon, and Virginia are the main US growing regions.
Due to the rich tannin in Pinotage's skins, many winemakers choose to ferment fast & hot, and finish off the fermentation separated from skins. Many winemakers also acidify their wines to create a better balance of acidity (Note: This process is usually done when grapes are cut over ripe & have low acidity), as it naturally has a low acidity.