Firstly, a big thank you to Peter May for arranging a unique opportunity, these wines being voted the top 10 in last year's ABSA Top 10 Pinotage competition and shipped over especially. The ABSA competition seems to be designed as a stage for the World to sit up and take notice of Pinotage. It's clearly still finding it's way as the winners tended to be to the very big and ripe new wave style, and didn't always show off pinotage as having consistently recognisable traits; however, this year they have gone for a selection of fruit driven wines along with the obviously super-ripe and oaky wines which cleaned up last year. At least one of the seriously over-ripe wines carried it off, but if they could just maintain subtle nuances which mark this grape rather than over-engineer them out, then I think the grape will become a more sought after variety (NA).
All of these wines generously supplied by The Pinotage Association, South Africa.
Pruney, over-ripe characters on the nose. On the palate raison and licquorice fruit, grippy tannin but good fruit and weight with acid popping out a little awkwardly at the finish. This sets the theme of the tasting, and while over-ripe in my books, might settle down with a bit more bottle age (NA). Deep young colour. Interesting nose, smoky tobacco and dried fruit, with some scent behind. V big attack. Quite bitter, becoming more bitter. Certain zinginess to it. Bitterness fades in glass with time (AS).
Dense burgundy in colour, violet tinged quality oak on the nose – clearly some expensive oak treatment but ripe red fruits also comes forward. On the palate though the entry is a blast of acid, very out of place and if added very over-done but then some ripe, licquirice tinged fruit comes through. With time the acid impression seems to get worse and then tends toward volatility. An adventurous style and for me it doesn’t look like paying off (NA). v dark blackish purple. V interesting nose - wet leaves (pleasant wet leaves ...) and oak. Nice attack. Fresh. Good fruit. Not the overwhelming bitterness of the Delheim (AS).
Good complex black/red fruits with that slightly gamey/farmyardy/cheesy edge that is often in pinotage - presumably derived from the similar trait to be found in cinsault (and this was at a complexing level much they way low level brett often works to a wines advantage rather than a more distracting higher level). On the palate the same complex flavours in a nicely ripe, medium bodied and balanced wine. (For me the best wine of the tasting was the most recognisable pinotage) (NA). Bright, v clear dark purple. Restrained nose with hedgerow fruit. Nice fruity attack. Fairly complex and deep. Good, but not dominant, tannic structure. Back to a touch of bitterness on the finish (AS).
Again in the ripe style, with ripe grippy fruit on the palate, full bodied and modern styled. Too early to say what it might achieve with age, but not currently showing much varietal character (NA). Blackish purple. Fair nose. V attractive on attack. Fills v nicely. Tannins come to fore towards the finish. V peppery & a touch acid on finish (AS).
Neetlingshof Lord Neethling 1998
Eathy, smokey toasted oak is obvious but complexing on the nose but I found some acetate on the palate which was distracting (NA). Clearly more age on the colour - attractive rich ruby. Attractive nose, slightly scented with some oakiness. VG attack. V clean & delicious - nice spice. Fills nicely. Not too agressive. Good. Softening tannins. VG finish. Nicely together (AS).
Perhaps a bit unfair on this wine, coming across a well enough made wine but again in a big, ripe, jammy style without any real distinguishing features, it came across as a bit boring. Time might well turn out a more interesting and complex wine (NA). Deep and young. More interesting nose - cherry/plum and hedgerow. Good attack. Forward fruit. Rich and mouth filling. Big and v. alcoholic in mouth. Nice fairly soft tannins. Much more fruit on the finish (AS).
‘Rijk’s Private Cellar 1999
Closed porty nose (this was 15.4% alcohol, the highest although the lowest was 13.3%); the over-ripeness has muted the fruit but it’s similarity to port, some what big zin like with dense, almost sweet from the alcohol black fruits and good overall balance has made a style which I enjoyed (not one which I’d expect to drink a lot of or with a main, but something which could work very well with a cheese course) (NA). Slightly subdued nose. Attractive balance. V full in mouth. Lots of big ripe fruit, but surprisingly not dominated by alcohol (abv 15.42%). Sweetness of the alcohol balances it. Good (AS).
Simonsig Redhill 1999
A ripe style touching on jammy but good bright fruit, good balance on the palate which was not too full, nicely ripe tannins and length. Another of my picks from the tasting overall, and starting to reveal a bit of varietal complexity too (NA). Deep purple. Nice nose with leafy fruit. Ripe, though also probably more elegant. Quite fine. Good (AS).
Very jammy, raspberry conserve like on the nose. I found the acid a little elevated for this very ripe style and less of it might have brought a more pleasing balance in the way the Rijk’s did (NA). Dark. Good nose - slightly minty/raspberry. Attractive, but rather harsh tannins quickly develop followed by some heat. Dominated by tannins (AS).
Uiterwyk Top-of-the-Hill 2000
Jammy red/black fruited nose, on the palate the fruit is ripe and jammy with a smoky oak overlay. Again not too distinguished at this age. The ’97 at the dinner had developed the more obvious pinotage character but on the palate the acid had become a bit awkward (NA). Interesting nose. V rich, full attack with big fruit. But not entirely to my liking (AS).