Over the last 10 years or so, Pinotage has gone from being a lightning rod for controversy to mere vinous curiosity and that’s no bad thing. It is to us what Nero d’Avola is to Sicily, a grape that’s not going to change the world of wine as we know it but rather makes it just that little bit more fascinating.
That said, there’s no reason to think that no further quality advances can be made with the variety. The Absa Top 10 Pinotage competition, begun in 1997, is now an institution but I’m not sure if this annual competition is doing enough to facilitate the debate.
Over the weekend, I opened the Pinotage 2012 from Allée Bleue (R150 a bottle) which placed among the winners this year at Absa Top 10 and unfortunately was not particularly taken with the wine.
Although this is the cellar’s third Top 10 wine, it’s the first to be classified Wine of Origin Franschhoek. The origin of the fruit is largely irrelevant, however, as it’s basically a variation on the “coffee Pinotage” theme – maturation lasting 18 months in 90% French and 10% American oak barrels, 60% new.
The over-riding impression is of oak-derived characters – vanilla and char on the nose, very firm tannins on the palate. The wine is not without fruit, but while it fights to assert itself it ultimately fails – red and black cherries on entry but the wine quickly turns hard and savoury in the mouth. Time for a workshop, Pinotage Association?