But some unanswered yet pertinent questions remain: Why did Perold cross Pinot Noir, the prince of French red grape varieties, with Hermitage, a much more humble variety which did, however, perform well under local conditions? Did he, being the intellectual giant that he was, perhaps have a good idea of what the end product could be? He did not leave any notes to explain his choice.
There was general excitement at the results of the early commercial plantings of Pinotage vines. The grapes ripened early, high sugar levels were achieved easily and the vines stayed healthy and vigorous. The early wines also showed a deeper, more intense ruby colour than either parent did. Some tasters liked the vinosity of the newcomer, others were deterred by the acetone-like quality which was to bedevil Pinotage’s development for many decades.
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. 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.