Joel Vincent

Technology. Wine. Family. (maybe not in that order)

WBW#6 – South African Reds

This week Vivi’s Wine Journal and WineTalk.com have put in a joint effort for WBW. Serge and Susanne of WineTalk.com submitted entries for two interesting South African Reds – Guardian Peak, Syrah Mourverde Grenache, 2001 and a 2003 Attacqua Pinotage, each apparently at different ends of the spectrum.


Susanne tried a South African Pinotage from Attacua 2003. Now Pinotage has an interesting story behind it. Pinotage is a uniquely South African grape variety. There are now plantings in other countries, but the origin of Pinotage is South African.

Its said to have been created by chemist Abraham Izak Perold around the turn of the last century (it is the 21st century now afterall…). The South African government wanted to extend the range of grapes planted in the region. They recognised Perold as the most qualified candidate to send on a scouting mission. He eventually returned with 177 varietals which formed the core of a collection which still exists at the Welgevallen Experimental Farm of the University of Stellenbosch. The creation of the Pinotage itself is said to be a series of coincidences. Perold had brushed a male Hermitage flower with a pollen Pinot Noir donor. The reason for this experiment is unclear but the theory is he was trying to a “best-of-breed” grape that had the taste of Pinot Noir with the easy to grow, disease resistant quality of the Hermitage (if you saw “Sideways”, you’ll hear all about the delicacy of Pinot Noir). The next bit is really interesting (from the Pinotage Association website):

After having conducted the experiment, Perold seems to have forgotten about it. He left the university two years later to take up a position with KWV in Paarl. His Welgevallen residence stood empty, and the garden became overgrown. The university administration despatched a team to tidy up. That could have been the end of Pinotage, but for an incredible coincidence.

A young lecturer, Dr Charlie Niehaus, who knew about the four seedlings, happened to cycle past Perold’s former residence just as the clean-up team entered the garden. He was just in time to save the seedlings. These were then re-established in the nursery at Elsenburg Agricultural College by Perold’s successor, CJ Theron.

The seedlings seem to have spent the next seven years largely ignored. In 1935, Theron grafted material from the seedlings on newly established Richter 99 and Richter 57 rootstock at Welgevallen. This could be another one of the coincidences that seem to indicate a benevolent eye looking out for the yet to be established varietal, since most of the long-established rootstock at Welgevallen were soon thereafter found to be so severely infected with viral diseases that they had to be destroyed.

Perold used to make regular visits to his old stamping grounds. It was on one of these visits that Theron showed the four grafted vines to his predecessor. Perold rekindled the enthusiasm of ten years previously, and suggested the new variety be propagated immediately. According to legend, it was during that visit to the vineyards of Welgevallen that the name Pinotage was born.

It had previously been known as Perold’s HermitagexPinot. (One source says that the name Herminoir was seriously considered.)

The graft that performed significantly better than the rest was chosen as the mother material of this new vinous trend. Again, the records of early plantings are frustratingly sketchy. But it’s generally accepted that Elsenburg was the site for the first experimental vineyard of Pinotage. Lecturer CT de Waal is credited with making the first Pinotage wine in small casks at Elsenburg in 1941. The farm Myrtle Grove near Sir Lowry’s Pass will go down in history as the place where the first commercial planting of Pinotage was made.

Well, Mr. Perold, Susanne certainly appreciates your efforts!

Tasting Notes:
South African Pinotage, Attacqua, 2003, $14
One of our favorite wines for everyday drinking, HEAVY smoky flavor, minerals, big fruit, medium weight, goes well with BQ in particular. Great value.

WineTalk Rating:

A solid 13:

In your mouth
4- smooth and balanced

Bang for a buck, quid, euro
4- Good Vibrations

Emotional review
5- I better buy more before the store runs out

Serge’s choice was Guardian Peak, Syrah Mourverde Grenache, 2001. Guardian Peak wines are made by a team at Rust en Vrede Wine Estate, a winery on a historic farm which, according to their website, was orignally established in 1694.

Some vitals on this blend:

Grape Variety : Syrah 47% Mourvèdre 43% Grenache 10%

Vintage : 2002
Origin : Western Cape
Winemaker : Louis Strydom

Chemical Analysis:
Alcohol: 14.5 vol%
Acidity: 6.2 g/l
PH: 3.64
Res Sugar: 2.6 g/l

What do they say about the wine?

Spicy wine with intense flavours of mulberries, blackberries and prunes. Palate is powerful, yet elegant ripe plum and dark chocolate flavours are infused with mocha, vanilla and cinnamon. Firm, but ripe tannin structure supports this wine well, as it will benefit from further bottle maturation.

Now, after an actual tasting of the commercial product, Serge has a very different opinion.

Tasting Notes:
What can I say? We have a label for wine like that in our household: medicinal drinking.
As much as I like fruity, this wine just drilled a hole in my mouth.
Fortunately, what I first mistook for TCA, dissipated with airation, but it didn’t do much to 14.7% alchohol content.

The bacon notes were subdued by the heavy fruit, and my ONLY hope is all the minerals allegedly contained in South Africa wine will come out as a diamond next time I pass a kidney stone. Hopefully it will be a 2 karat industrial strength diamond I can sell to the oil drilling company.

WineTalk Rating:

A marginal at best 8

In your mouth
2- passable

Bang for a buck, quid, euro
4- Good Vibrations $13.00

Emotional review
2- I’d share it with my undertaker

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