Pinotage: South Africa’s red jewel

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Did you know: Pinotage is a uniquely South African grape variety?

It all started in 1925 when Prof Abraham Perold successfully cross-fertilised Pinot Noir and Hermitage (Cinsaut), creating the beautiful, proudly South African Pinotage! 

Perold observed how Pinot Noir struggled in South Africa’s climate, so he crossed them with a very productive species: Cinsaut (called Hermitage). Perold’s goal was to create a wine that was as delicious as Pinot Noir but grew as well as Cinsaut. 

After having conducted the experiment, Perold seems to have forgotten about it. He left the university two years later, his Welgevallen residence stood empty, and the garden became overgrown. The university administration despatched a team to tidy up. That could have been the end of Pinotage, but for an incredible coincidence.

A young lecturer, Dr Charlie Niehaus, who knew about the four seedlings, happened to cycle past Perold’s former residence just as the clean-up team entered the garden. He was just in time to save the seedlings. These were then re-established in the nursery at Elsenburg Agricultural College by Perold’s successor, CJ Theron. The seedlings seem to have spent the next seven years largely ignored. In 1935, Theron grafted material from the seedlings on newly established Richter 99 and Richter 57 rootstock at Welgevallen. Perold used to make regular visits to his old stamping grounds. It was on one of these visits that Theron showed the four grafted vines to his predecessor. Perold rekindled the enthusiasm of ten years previously, and suggested the new variety be propagated immediately. The records of early plantings are frustratingly sketchy. But it’s generally accepted that Elsenberg was the site for the first experimental vineyard of Pinotage. Lecturer CT de Waal is credited with making the first Pinotage wine in small casks at Elsenburg in 1941. The farm Myrtle Grove near Sir Lowry’s Pass will go down in history as the place where the first commercial planting of Pinotage was made.

The result of the crossing between Cinsaut and Pinot Noir was unexpected. The Pinotage grapes were extremely dark in color and the wine they created was bold and high in tannin (that dry feeling in your mouth) and anthocyanin (colour) — nothing its the progenitors. Despite the difference in flavor, Pinotage would eventually become the 2nd most planted grape in South Africa.

Pinotage Aromas

  • red fruit

  • berry

  • plum

  • tropical fruit

Pinotage Flavors

  • red berry

  • cherry

  • plum

  • tropical fruit

  • smoke

  • earthy

Pinotage Character Profile

  • light body

  • medium body

  • hard tannins

Food Pairing with Pinotage

  • roast turkey

  • salmon

  • fish

  • game meats

  • salami

  • dried meats

– from Pinotage Wine Grape Flavors & Aromas



Merwida Winery’s Pinotage has a lot of fans! With such a rich history, and the fact that it is proudly South African,why not try our Merwida Pinotage?





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