Tasting T3.15 South African Cinsault & Pinotage

Kim and I first visited South Africa back in 1991 on our honeymoon. In just over three weeks we drove well over 3,000 kilometres from Johannesburg out to the Kruger National Park, then down to Durban, across to Port Elisabeth, the garden route and Cape Town. Finally, we took the ‘Blue Train’ back up to Johannesburg.

It was an incredible trip and whilst the country was going through significant change. A change that is still a part of the life in South Africa. The people we met and places we visited left a strong tie between us and South Africa.

In 2007 we took Harry, aged 12, to enjoy his first taste of somewhere truly different and truly exotic. Game drives featuring the ‘big 5’, Lions, Buffalo, Rhino’s, Elephants and Leopard’s, along with the Giraffe’s, Zebra’s, Impala’s and Hippo’s etc.

In 2017 Kim and I returned for a long weekend of wine tasting before sailing up the coast of East Africa. Based in Franschoek, we tasted in many wonderful wineries which reaffirmed our belief that there are some really wonderful wines coming out of South Africa.

We will be tasting Cabernet Sauvignon, Chardonnay and other whites in future tastings, but Harry has long had a love affair with Pinotage so that is where we will start. Pinotage is south Africa’s ‘own’ variety. It was cultivated there in 1925 as a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, (known as Hermitage locally), hence the name Pinotage.

South African wines tend to have a comparison with French wines in their style, but even though Pinotage is a marriage of two French grapes, the style it shows tends to align more closely with that of the new world. It has also been seen as a little out of place with the more European flavour of most South African wines.

Pinotage has come in for much criticism over the years. The wines have often had an isoamyl acetate, sweet, pungent, paint like smell and in 1976 some British masters of Wine called the nose ‘hot and horrible’ and the taste was compared to ‘rusty nails’. This has led to the variety not being widely planted anywhere else in the world.

Having said all that, whenever we have visited, we have found some really wonderful examples of Pinotage and enjoyed them thoroughly.

The other grape variety we thought to add to this tasting, in fact to start it off, is Cinsault, one of the parents of Pinotage. Cinsault as a grape is very tolerant of warmer climates and is often blended with Grenache or Carignan in France to add softness and bouquet.

In South Africa it is often blended with Cabernet Sauvignon, however in South Africa winemakers have been experimenting with the grape as a single varietal as it can offer crunchy red berry flavours that are not too alcoholic.

Tonight, after our initial tasting we plan to re-taste the two Cinsault wines with a selection of Biltong and Droewors (traditional South African dried spiced beef snack food). Following that our four Pinotage wines will be tasted with Cape Malay Chicken Curry and Bobotie. Both dishes are traditional South African dishes.

There are many top wineries in South Africa, all from the Cape province and mainly from the main wine areas of Constantia (just south of Cape Town), Stellenbosch (to the west of Cape Town), Franschoek (just a bit further west) and Paarl (North of Stellenbosch).

The wineries are,

Naude wines (Stellenbosch)

Ian Naude makes new world wines in an old world style. Ian travelled the world working in various harvests learning and loving wines that had an identity and sense of place. Returning to Africa he set up Naude wines and started making his own. It is now over 30 years since he first made wine.

Lukas Van Loggerenberg (Paarl)

A rising star in the South African wine scene, 2016 was the inaugural vintage for Lukas who had begun his career with the larger more industrial wineries making bulk wines. He spent two harvests in the USA and his eyes were opened to the making of fine wines as he met with people and tasted fine wines from California and France.

Scions of Sinai (Stellenbosch)

Sinai hill is a granite hill in the lower Helderburg just south of Stellenbosch. A scion is either the top life bearing part of the vine or can mean ‘the descendant of’. Bernhard Bredell, himself a 7th generation descendant of the Bredell wine farmers used these words to create the name ‘Scions of Sinai’ for his wine company.

Moreson Wine Farm (Franschoek)

Clayton Reabow has been at the helm here since 2006 and was named Diner’s club winemaker of the Year 2019. A pilot. His wines are often named after call signs or other aviation references.

Kanonkop  (Stellenbosch)

The name Kanonkop is derived from a hillock (kop) on the Simonsberg mountain above the wine estate from where, during the 17th and 18th centuries, a cannon (kanon) was fired to announce the arrival of sailing ships entering Table Bay.

Founder Paul Sauer first cleared land and planted grapes during World War two, and the cellar was built in 1942. By the 1960’s they had 110 hectares under vine and all grapes vinified in the Kanonkop cellar were sold to the Stellenbosch Farmers Winery, one of the largest co-operatives. In 1973 the first wines bearing the Kanonkop label were produced.

Tonight’s wines will be tasted by David, Harry, Kim, Jen and Luke.

Naude – Cinsault Werfdans 2016

From impeccably maintained vineyards planted in 1973. Fragrant, elegant and showing classic Cape Cinsault characteristics of red berries and Turkish delight.

Nose: Light red colour on first viewing. Hints of tobacco, leather and forest floor. Intense aromas of red fruits and plums. Beautiful first wine.

Palate: What a banger… cherries, leather and tobacco coming through. Beautiful balance and structure. A cracking wine with a medium body, full acidity and beautifully integrated tannins. A moderate finish but this wine is far from moderate. This will age for years to come and is absolutely fantastic. I highly recommend purchasing.

LV Loggerenberg – Cinsault ‘Geronimo’ 2016

Lukas did not want to make a tutti-frutti Cinsault, so this cooler climate is a fine lightly wooded wine with lots of whole bunch spice, fine tannins and sappy red cherry and pomegranate flavours.

Nose: Light – medium red colour on first viewing. Aromas of liquorice, jammy red fruits with slight hints of forest floor again.

Palate: Jammy red fruits on the forefront with deep hints of cherries and raspberries. Quite closed at the beginning, however with food this wine really sang. Light – medium bodied with moderate to full acidity. This wine has a long way to go and will get better and better. Low – moderate tannins which still need a bit of time with a medium length finish.

Scions of Sinaii – Feniks Pinotage 2019

Feniks meaning Phoenix in Afrikaans alludes to the revival of Pinotage. From 47 year old vines the wine is filled with mouth-watering dark fruit, edged by something raw and meaty. The palate is juicy with spicy, smoky and grainy tannins, plus a savoury finish.

Nose: Medium red colour on first viewing. Booming notes of kirsch and of course cherries. Aromas of white pepper, spices and subtle smoke.

Palate: Of course sour cherries on the forefront, spices coming through really nicely with the food on the second tasting. The combination of moderate acidity and sour cherries is extremely good. Medium bodied wine with full flowing tannins and a moderate finish. Again this wine will only get better with age. Cellaring for a good few years should do it.

Moreson – The Widow Maker Pinotage 2018

Produced from the oldest and original Pinotage vines in South Africa. Regularly awarded medals by SA wine afficionado John Platter. Rich and unashamedly full-bodied wine packed full of juicy plum, black cherry and mocha flavours.

Nose: Deep red colour on first viewing. Extremely savoury aromas. Intense cherries, baked bread and spices. So different!

Palate: A gorgeous wine, dark chocolate, cherries and peppery spice sing in the mouth. Luscious wine that just continues to develop on the palate. Full bodied wine with moderate acidity and moderate to full tannins. This wine will age gracefully over the next 10 years and become blockbuster (if it’s not already there!). A lovely long finish gives the wine the ending it deserves.

Kanonkop Pinotage 2015

Deep garnet with a purple hue, this wine offers plush plum and cherry flavours with an evocative hint of spice. As the wine ages in the bottle it gains an earthy, forest-floor character and a delectable cassis-like, sweet-fruited core.

Nose: Deep red colour on first viewing. Hints of spice, cherries and slight smoke. Unfortunately a tiny amount of acetate coming through however it was not majorly noticeable. The rest of the smell was fantastic however.

Palate: Sour cherries on the palate with spice and a touch of forest floor. This is shockingly still young and could do with another 4-5 years of cellaring in order to get to its full potential but my word it is fantastic. Medium – full bodied with high acidity and moderate to full tannins. This wine is the real deal. A lovely full length finish again and we are starting to hit stardom in South African Pinotage.

Moreson – MKM Moraka Klaas Maffa Pinotage 2012

The garrigue herb character is undeniable and complemented by a dark, brooding and luscious compote of blackberry and cassis fruit. More redolent of a serious Southern Rhone or Mourvedre dominated Bandol wine.

Nose: Medium – deep red colour on first viewing. A bountiful smell, cooked fruits, chocolate, leather and spices. An incredible aroma that you could smell for the rest of your life.

Palate: Incredibly fresh fruit on the palate, amazing. Deep and rich notes of fruit, spices coming through and beautiful earthy, savoury notes. If Kanonkop was the Queen of Pinotage this is certainly the King. Light – medium bodied still with full acidity and moderate, perfectly integrated, tannins. This wine shows no attempt of slowing down and will probably hit its peak in the next year or two and carry on until 2027-30 until it start to decline. An extraordinary wine.


I was extremely excited for this tasting. I am a massive fan of Pinotage and was reading all about these vineyards in the run up to it. I was absolutely not disappointed. These wines showed true elegance and beauty in the glass.

A grape variety that I am sure the average wine drinker has not had often, I would implore you to explore it more. As my father said above it has improved drastically over the last couple of decades. The winemakers of these esteemed wineries deserve huge amounts of credit. It’s safe to say that we were blown away by the quality on show.

The scores:

Werfdans 2016 – 92 Points

Geronimo 2016 – 91 Points

Feniks 2019 – 90 Points

Widow Maker 2018 – 93 Points

Kanonkop Pinotage 2015 – 95 Points

MKM 2012 – 98 Points

All wines outstanding. How is that for quality across the board? I must admit that half way through this tasting I bought 6 bottles of the Widow Maker and the last 4 bottles of MKM (but 2016 vintage). I have not done that on any other tasting so far.

That is how highly I rate these wines. The MKM was truly incredible and fully deserves a seat next to some of the best wines in the world in our humble opinion.

Thank you for reading and go give them a try!

David & Harry

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