The Cape Wine Show, dubbed the “most successful international wine show in the southern hemisphere”, is a captivating triennial event to showcase over 350 years of wine-making in South Africa. The first Cape Wine Show was held in 2000. Hosted over three days by Wines of South Africa (Wosa), from September 15 to 17, Wosa’s main drive is that of marketing “Brand South Africa.” With over 320 wineries exhibiting a range of wines in the region of 5 000, over 50 nationalities were present to witness, enjoy and partake in this momentous occasion. It was a clear-cut case of bringing the world of wine traders, wine lovers and wine writers to South Africa.
The wine talk, wine cheer and wine knowledge were a mass of coherent noise as the opening of the 2015 Cape Wine Show, by Wosa chief executive officer Siobhan Thompson, took centre stage. The South African wine world clearly confirmed and embraced globalisation. This three-day event, over and above showcasing the dynamism and evolution of South African wines, availed wine makers and sommeliers a chance to re-affirm the country’s position in the production of wines.
As I stepped into the Cape Wine Show’s exhibition hall, only then did the magnitude of this wine dawn on me. I suddenly realised the meaning of the invitation extended to me by Wosa, in taking part as a wine writer. A cosmopolitan wine reality stood before me, joyfully overwhelming the wine lover in me. It was wine discovery with Ghanaians, wine chatter with the Swiss, wine laughs with Americans, wine questions with South Africans, wine swirling with the Japanese, wine sniffing with the Italians and wine sipping with the Dutch.
With each winery exhibiting, showcasing it’s unique range of wines for tasting to traders, sommeliers and wine lovers, and a separate tasting room presenting South African themes which included Bubblies, limited releases, vintage selections and organic and biodynamic, among many others, to “highlight South Africa’s top quality wines.”
The wine lover in me gave careful thought to the Cape Wine Show and I was immediately drawn to wanting to know more about South Africa and what made it unique in the global wine village. With a handful of Pinotage wines available in Zimbabwe, but a limited amount of knowledge and meaning to back-up this variety, I felt I was in the right place at the right time to explore this varietal, unique to South Africa. Pinotage originates from South Africa and is a cross of Pinot Noir and Cinsaut (Hermitage) grapes. It’s a varietal that was developed by Professor Abraham Perold, with the first Pinotage being produced in 1941. It has since been acclaimed as the “trump card”, of South African wine. With more than just a range of Pinotage wines being available in the exclusive “explore South Africa tasting area”, a presentation at the Speakers Corner by Higgo Jacobs (Sommelier at Large) of “Six Decades of Pinot Noir” eventually fulfilled my Pinotage quest.
‘Six Decades of Pinotage’
The movement of one era to another gave me a deeper understanding and meaning of Pinotage. It was a clear journey that unmistakably heralded Pinotage, yesterday, today and tomorrow. Jacobs took 20-odd wine enthusiasts, with a desire to know more, myself included, from the early styles of Pinotage from old vines to Pinotage in later decades and the likely standing of Pinotage in South Africa in decades to come.
1967 Lanzerac Pinotage (Stellenbosch)
It displayed a tawny colour and the nose was still characterised by the sweetness, red fruit and tension found in Pinotage. Pinot Noir characteristics were more prominent because of age. Though not to my taste, I was surprised it was still drinkable and even displayed freshness. A few days before, the 1968 vintage had sold for about 6 000 rands at the Nederburg Auction.
1972 Oude Libertas
Though this brand was discontinued in the 90s, its tawny colour confirmed it had aged and I again noted with interest the red fruit and freshness in this wine. The spicy sweetness and nutty character gave this wine a balance that left me wondering what it might have tasted like 40 years ago.
1982 Fleur Du Cap
This Pinotage from the coastal region, with slightly more alcohol than the ones before, displayed a red brick colour with riper black fruit on the nose. The rounded acidity on the palate gave it its adaptability towards being a good food wine.
1995 Zonnebloem Limited Edition (Stellenbosch)
Perhaps because the years were moving towards present day, this Pinotage was more fruit forward. The ripe red fruit and a mix of chocolate, toffee and Turkish delight flavours gave off a freshness in typical new world style.
The nose of ripe red fruit was cleaner and more elegant, and was a beauty on the palate, confirming the awarded Veritas double gold award it wore.
2007 Golden Triangle Stellenzicht
With a name that typically refers to where the vineyards are, this estate wine of 14,5% alcohol, was fresh, full-bodied and I felt was ready for drinking. This may have brought on my turning point with Pinotage. Can I imagine it 40 years from now?
2012 Burbanville Hills Rhinofield (Reserve Range)
With its plummy red colour, this cool climate Pinotage with good natural acidity had accessible red fruit, more wild spicy fruit and sour cherries. The use of new oak during fermentation, made it enjoyable on the palate.
This wine is the first vintage made from 100% Elgin fruit in the cool climate region of Elgin. With a passionate Belgian couple at the helm of this winery, a European style of winemaking is used with what I would like to call, an exciting harmonious bond between old world and new world. The good acidity gives this wine structure and finesse to mark today’s Pinotage.
This journey put me on equal footing with Pinotage, thanks to the decades I re-lived in a day. Wine lovers discover this fresh, bright, elegant and fruity variety. Embark on your own journey and hopefully dis-embark on an equal footing with Pinotage. To South Africa’s evolution of Pinotage, Cape wines, wine lovers and Wosa, for this memorable experience, it’s a heartfelt cheer with a Pinotage to a magnificent Cape Wine 2015.