While Pinotage has improved immeasurably since the late 1990s, I have to confess I still don’t drink it that often – it remains curious stuff and I have to be in a particular sort of mood before broaching a bottle.
L’Avenir in Stellenbosch is well entrenched as one of the top producers so I was intrigued to try its standard label offering (R100 a bottle) from the much-hyped 2009 vintage. The property’s reputation for the variety was established by the long-serving Francois Naudé but was acquired by Frenchman Michel Laroche in 2005 so what I was particularly interested to investigate was if a particularly French interpretation of the variety might be starting to emerge.
Put bluntly, the 2009 appears technically correct and a bit soul-less. The nose shows dusty oak while the palate is juicy and fresh and not very tannic. There’s concentrated red fruit and lemon-like acidity and, to its credit, the wine does not trade off residual sugar or contrived oak flavours. Even so, it lacks real interest and seems primarily designed not to cause offence. Score: 15/20.
My itch for Pinotage not yet scratched, I stopped up the 2009 and opened a 2005 of the property’s flagship wine designated as Grand Vin. On the nose ripe red and black fruit, spice and chocolate as well as slightly oxidised note. The palate was rich and broad and somewhat coarse. Likeable but not terribly sophisticated and I was left thinking that modern-day Pinotage which manages to be both complex and elegant remains a rare thing. Score: 15.5/20.