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Tukulu Pinotage 2001

The last of the old campaigners.
The last of the old campaigners.

A remarkable wine in a number of respects. Firstly, it won the title of Wine magazine’s Pinotage Champion of the Year in 2003. This was the last time the competition was held with the Shiraz Challenge replacing it in 2004, after the decision was taken to switch editorial emphasis from the Pinotage to Shiraz on the basis that the latter has more chance of doing the industry proud.

Was the thinking on the part of the Wine magazine editorial team justified? Shiraz plantings have increased dramatically in recent times but there’s a large amount of boring wine being made from it, while top-end Pinotage is all of a sudden really interesting again. You have a sense that because Pinotage takes such a critical bashing, there’s no room in the category for any but the most fully committed producers.

Second, the 2001 Pinotage capped a remarkable run of success for the Darling property with this variety, this vintage also placing among the Pinotage Association Top 10, as did the maiden 1999 and 2000.  The 2004 and 2006 would later also achieve the same honour.

Consulting the tasting report that appeared back in 2003, the 2001 had an approximate retail price of R80, and the tasting note read as follows: “On the nose, mocha and coffee as well as black berry fruit. A well-structured wine with a long finish. Vanilla prominent, but also good concentration of fruit: lush and ripe. Keep for up to 4 years.”

Reviewing it now, it has to be said that the cellaring recommendation was very conservative, the wine still looking great. It shows red rather than black fruit, great freshness and all that vanilla has dissipated. Drank it listening to U2’s 1987 album The Joshua Tree and wished rock bands aged as well as wine.


  1. Ah, The Joshua Tree…

    Of course the cellaring recommendation was too conservative (but then most of them are, in Wine Mag) and of course it was the wrong decision to replace the Pinotage competition with a Shiraz one. Shiraz is grown everywhere (and often in the wrong place, due to it being so fashionable) – it’s much better to try and expand a niche market than to try and muscle yourself into a congested, established, high-quality market. If Chile were faced with a similar choice, would they drop Carménère for Merlot? Would Spain drop Tempranillo for Shiraz? Would Argentinia drop Malbec for Cabernet? One might argue that our Pinotage is not as good as Chile’s Carménère or our ‘Cape Blends’ not as good as the best from Rioja, but Pinotage is still a baby compared to the others and Rome wasn’t built in a day. Surely it would have shown better long term vision to stay with the Pinotage competition (despite some people having an intense dislike of the grape).

    Wine should have supplemented the Pinotage competition with a Museum Class award. Great Pinotage only shines with age.

  2. There’s so much knee-jerk reaction from all sides – producers planting fashionable varieties, consumers berating producers because a fashionable variety turns out some less than glitzy examples. Shiraz might currently be the whipping boy, but as happened to Sauvignon Blanc, and now, I think, Merlot, once the correct planting spots have been identified, and winemakers have got to grips in the cellar, everything settles down and good wines – in different styles – start to appear. Eagles’ Nest, Hartenberg Gravel Hill. Columella are all excellent and individual; there are and will continue to be more. Pinotage also went through a phase of enthusiastic plantings but once international reaction didn’t match up, they dropped. With less fanfare, there are some equally top-class wines – Beyerskloof Diesel, Francois Naudé’s Le Vin de Francois, Kanonkop etc. Watch out for a piece I’m building up to write on specialisation.

  3. 30-05-11: In the last few days, I’ve had chance to drink ’07, ’08 and ’01 (in that order). The 2007 was so lean and savoury to the point where I started suspecting bacterial spoilage: the 2008 was medium bodied with red cherry fruit, pleasant enough but not very complex; the 2001 remains a cracker – focused and pure and jolly delicious.


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