Pinotage was developed by Prof. A.I Perold in 1925, when he successfully crossed Pinot noir and Cinsaut, which was then known as Hermitage. Hence the name Pino – tage. Prof. CJ Theron succeeded in rescuing and reproducing the original seedlings and undertook the considerable task of evaluation. The name appeared on a wine label for the first time in 1961, namely the SFW’s 1959 Lanzerac Pinotage.
This followed on the sensation caused by the Morkels from Bellevue in 1959, when they won the prize for the best wine at the Cape Young Wine Show with this virtually unknown cultivar. The late senator Paul Sauer from Kanonkop did a great deal to make Pinotage popular.
When it is trellised and allowed to bear heavily, a light to reasonably full red table wine can be made. In the early years, isoamyl acetate tended to display prominently on the nose when the wine was still very young. When it is pruned to produce a smaller crop and allowed to ripen very well, a dark purple wine with an overwhelming, characteristic bouquet can be obtained.
Pinotage is currently the most planted locally-bred cultivar, and it has the reputation that a unique red wine can be produced that is easily distinguishable from other red wines. However, when it is cultivated under conditions of high temperatures and water stress, it is often found that a spray paint character develops in the wine.
This undesirable characteristic increases quickly when the fermentation temperatures are allowed to rise above 30°C. However, when Pinotage is cultivated under “softer” conditions, in which water stress and high temperatures are not a problem during ripening, a Pinot-like character develops in the wine, which is acknowledged as high quality.
At one stage Pinotage lost a lot of its popularity in South Africa – it is interesting to note that in 1979 the plantings comprised only 66 639 vines. From 1990 onwards, with the lifting of sanctions, a renewed interest developed in this cultivar. A lot was done with regard to plant improvement and clone evaluation over the years. Plantings have increased considerably in more recent times.
SynonymsNone (South African cultivar)
Distinguishing CharacteristicsLeathery, thick, dark green leaves. Five-lobed with lateral sinuses medium to deep. Teeth (often more than one) occur at the sinus fronts. Teeth broad and blunt. Berries small, oval with thick, tough, darkly coloured skins.
DescriptionShoot tips: Felty and white. Leaves: Large, longitudinal, five-lobed, dark green, leathery appearance and crimped. Lateral sinuses medium to deep, teeth often occur in the sinus. Petiole sinus lyre-shaped and narrow. Cobwebby underneath and teeth convex, broad and blunt. Bunch: Relatively small and conical, medium to compact. Berries: Small, oval, darkly coloured with tough, thick skins. Soft, juicy pulp. Ripening: Last half of February / first week of March. Yield: 10 – 15 t/ha Average sugar concentration: 22 – 25°B Average acid concentration: 6 – 7 g/l Wine quality: Premium (when cultivated on acceptable terrains).
Available ClonesUnfortunately, not many clones of Pinotage are available: PI 45 : Average yield and vigour, very fruity, full with many tannins, from Distell. PI 48 : Average yield and vigour, very fruity, from the KWV. PI 50 : Average yield and vigour, typically fruity taste, from the KWV.
Grows moderately with a moderate yield. Is cultivated successfully as a goblet vine in certain areas. Pinotage is less resistant to Botrytis than Cabernet Sauvignon, but no serious problems are experienced because it ripens earlier. Otherwise not excessively sensitive to fungal diseases. When Pinotage is cultivated under undesirable conditions (water stress, high temperatures during ripening), it often develops a spray paint character in the wine.
Under “softer” conditions, a more outspoken Pinot character will develop. By selecting different terrains, it is possible to produce two distinctive styles of Pinotage wines. It ripens relatively early and in some years it is possible to avoid the “hard” ripening conditions at the end of the season. Middle to higher eastern slopes on deeper soils with good water retention properties are the best for Pinot-like Pinotage wines.
Under these conditions, Ruggeri 140 must be used as rootstock, especially if irrigation water might sometimes be limited. To avoid the spray paint-like wine style, western slopes that are not reached by the south-westerly berg winds must be used, and in this case R110 is recommended to be used as rootstock.