Under the Influence ‘Again’ Part 2: Polarised Views of Pinotage

“The good ones were serious wines, complex, dense and spicy and had spent some quality time in French oak.”

“The good ones were serious wines, complex, dense and spicy and had spent some quality time in French oak.”

Start your Journey Here

Get in Touch!


After my shameful performance at my first Under the Influence wine tasting – see Under the influence of White Blends – it was little surprise that Mrs. Holt took a dim view when I informed her that I would be attending the next one. But a whining “I’m really interested in the history of Pinotage darling” was cut off by a curt “if you get drunk this time you can sleep in the bloody car.”

However little did she know that I had already hatched a cunning plan or that the guys at Under the Influence had inadvertently hatched it for me. When I rang to book, they told me they had just partnered with the Lexus dealership in Cape Town and the first 10 bookings were to be chauffeured to and from the tasting in a luxury vehicle – oh happy days!! So at 6pm a week later a brand new, gleaming, silver Lexus RX450 hybrid pitched up at our office and as the driver stepped out and said “Would you like to drive?”, I couldn’t resist a smirk at Mrs. Holt’s slack jawed look of surprise as she peered out of the upstairs window.

10 quick minutes later we arrived at our destination, the Roundhouse Restaurant overlooking Camps Bay where I eventually found and applied the handbrake “with my foot” and climbed out of the space age cockpit amid many bleeps, parps and flashes from the onboard computer. “Mummy can I have a new Lexus, please, pretty please, its only R800, 000!” It’s now winter in Cape Town and the nights are fair drawing in, so unlike last time when we sat on the lawns in the evening sun, we were now located in the Roundhouse Restaurant wine cellar surrounded by flickering candles and hundreds of bottles of the finest wine you could drink – very tempting.

But we were here tonight to get up close and personal with Mr. Pinotage, a red varietal, from grapes unique to South Africa and a wine guaranteed to polarise opinion and start arguments across many a wine bores dinner table! In the capable hands of Allister Kreft, (who does and should know a bit about wine, as his father Mike produces one of the best Cabernet Sauvignons in South Africa from just 5 hectares of vineyards at his Belfield farm in the Elgin valley), we learned more about this bastard child of South African wine. Literally born out of a clandestine liaison between pinot noir and hermitage (cinsaut) grapes back in the 1920’s, the first Pinotage wines were produced in South Africa in the 1940’s and since then it has always had a love it or hate appeal. Tonight was to be no different.

Richard Holt – admiring a Pinotage

Personally I have always had a bit of an affection with Pinotage, as a glass of Backsberg was my first ever taste of South African wine way back when, but the detractors say it lacks identity, takes on many forms and is hard to identify and has become a bit of a gimmick for those who are mass producing cheap South African wine. In all we tasted seven Pinotage varietals from different regions of the Western Cape and most fell into two distinct categories. Some I loved and some I hated, which very much summed up the views of the other twenty tasters in the group.

The good ones were serious wines, complex, dense and spicy and had spent some quality time in French oak. The ones I didn’t like to me were too light, “jammy”, insignificant and instantly forgettable. Some of them were also memorable for the wrong reasons because quite honestly I prefer my chocolate wrapped in silver foil with Cadburys stamped all over the wrapper, not in my wine!!!

Overall my three personal favourites on the night were the 2008 Camberley Pinotage which was “top of the pops” and of course the most expensive. It was chased very hard though by the Hartenberg 2006 and probably the best overall value at just R41.00 a bottle was the Man Vintners Pinotage from the Swartland region.

Another enjoyable evening almost over, I staggered out into the car park where surprisingly my chauffeur suggested I let him drive me home and as I slumped in the back seat in a red wine haze, did I dream it, or was that “voice activated” temperature change in the Lexus for real!!

Until next time.