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“MAN” victorious in Pinotage showdown

Northside Staff

Tasters: Dave Pohl, ed., Dana Malley, Kelley O’Neill, Jason Wentworth, Chris Coronel

Many grape varieties are associated with a single wine growing region or country. Zinfandel, while grown experimentally in various pockets of the world, is still viewed as California’s own. Austria has its white Gruner Veltliner, and while Nebbiolo may be the king of grapes in Italy’s Piedmont, producing the great Barolo and Barbaresco wines, it is virtually a non-player outside of that region.

Another example of a grape with a strong regional identification is South Africa’s Pinotage. Created in 1925 by Stellenbosch University viticulturalist A.I. Perold, Pinotage is a genetic crossing of two grapes, Pinot Noir and Cinsaut. Pinot Noir is the famed red grape of France’s Burgundy region. Cinsaut, less well known, is a grape grown throughout southern France, primarily used for blending. In 1925, it was typically called “Hermitage” in South Africa, hence the name Pinotage.

The wine it produced was viewed by many as unexceptional. In recent decades, however, South African vintners have seen greater potential for the grape and have taken a more serious approach to it. Indeed, Pinotage plantings have nearly tripled over the past two decades, and now occupy 6.4% of South Africa’s vineyard acreage.
The staff at Northside Wine & Spirits recently blind tasted a group of ten South African Pinotage wines. The wines were a mixed bag, ranging from enjoyable wines with simple, up front fruit to wines marred by aromas reminiscent of burnt rubber. The good news? The staff preferred the less expensive wines.

The winning wine was the MAN Vintners 2009 Pinotage. Costing $8.99 per bottle, it was preferred to wines ranging from $14 to $33. It has appealing, raspberry-like fruit augmented by hints of smoke and earth. MAN Vintners is a winery owned jointly by three men. The name of their winery derives from the first letters of their wives’ names: Marie, Anette, and Nicky. The winery recommends their Pinotage as an accompaniment to eel and “’roo stew.” Less adventurous eaters may want to try it with roast chicken, eggplant Parmesan, and hearty stews of all types!

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