We’re all smiles in the cellar as our 21 Gables Pinotage 2018 has just been titled one of SA’s top ten at the prestigious 2023 Absa Top 10 Pinotage competition.
Organised by the Pinotage Association, this annual competition aims to identify ten exceptional Pinotage wines that serve as a benchmark for developing South Africa’s signature grape variety.
Yet, as well-loved as today, Pinotage was not always peoples’ top pick for red wine. The dark-skinned grape spent most of the 1980s and 1990s overplanted and mass-produced. Internationally, Pinotage gained a reputation for having acetone and burnt rubber aromas. It was a bit of a ‘grape non-grata’ situation.
Thankfully, the last twenty years have seen Pinotage come into its own. With better site planting and expertise from South Africa’s dedicated winemakers, the bold and mighty grape is receiving the attention it deserves. Celebrated for its juicy red fruit aromatics, Pinotage can be made in various expressions and styles and is expressed as a single varietal in our Signature Pinotage, Creative Block 8 and 21 Gables Pinotage.
21 Gables Pinotage is where our winemakers can push the variety in new directions, trialling different picking dates and vinifications. The 2018 vines were grown in ancient Stellenbosch mountain soils overlooking the south side of False Bay. Just a stone's throw from the ocean, the 15-year-old vines benefit from cooling summer breezes, resulting in a wine with vibrant acidity. When harvest approached, our Cellar Master, Johan Jordaan, chose to pick based on taste rather than a set date. This led to staggered harvests, picking only when the tannins were perfectly balanced. Multiple picking dates led to multiple fermentation batches - 10 to be exact! From there, the different batches were aged in first and second-fill French, American and Hungarian oak barrels, which matured for 20 months. Then, and only then, Johan and the cellar team conducted an intensive barrel selection, tasting the various barrels to decide on the final wine.
“Step by step - that’s how this wine was made. From micro-picking to micro-vinification, the 21 Gables Pinotage is a prime example of how the whole is always better than the sum of its parts,” shares Johan.
Of course, as with all wine, Pinotage styles vary depending on where they are grown. With regenerative farming practices front of mind for our winemaking team, Johan adds that he believes that wines grown in good soils reap the best results.
Once an outlier, Pinotage is making waves in the Winelands: from misunderstood maverick to the most sought-after marvel. Finally, this local gem is enjoying the limelight it deserves. We’ll cheers to that!