Powered by ABSA bank, it makes sense that the Pinotage Association at least should take the Wall Street Journal seriously. And the news that it’s Pinotage-doubting columnist Lettie Teague has seriously grasped the iron banana (so-called after tasting comments at the ABSA Top Ten Pinotage Competition over the years) has energized the Association.
Beyers Truter, Prince of Pinotage, what Prince Harry is to hormones or Prince William to baby showers, will be sending Lettie 20 bottles of Pinotage. “I’m not saying that the House of Mandela Pinotage that Lettie likes is bad, just generic” says Beyers “but we’re taking the Pinotage Blend Competition winners to California in May and will invite Lettie to our tastings. We’ll also invite her to judge the ABSA Top Ten.” Last year, the competition had no celebrity judge (apart from Miguel Chan and Anthony Hamilton Russell) – which perhaps explained the absence of his Diesel (a wine Lettie liked best) plus Kanonkop, either straight up or Black Label, from the Top Twenty.
The problem faced in getting Lettie to SA is that as a WSJ stringer, she’s banned from accepting corporate hospitality of the type showered on Oz Clarke and Tim Atkin by WOSA last month who brought the pair to the Cape to play golf and taste just before Christmas. Oz impressed hugely with his down to earth comments and likeable personality, but whether these two are worth the substantial costs is doubtful. Like her or lump her, SA wine needs Lettie or even better, her co-columnist Jay McInerney, to come and taste. Perhaps Jay’s friend Hammo can help.
After tasting hundreds of terroir Pinotages last year blind with Aníbal Coutinho (who even makes one called Astronaut) – sighted Platter is seriously unreliable when it comes to Pinotage thanks to a build-up of prejudice among tasters, confirmed by a dearth of five star stunners – my Lettie list would include:
1. Bergsig 2010 from Breedekloof. Minerality, chocolate, fresh red berries with an elegant texture.
2. Durbanville Hills Rhinofields 2011 from Durbanville. Lively fruit cinnamon spice and charry oak. Dried prunes and candied red fruit. Floral fresh notes. Pleasant sucrosity, elegant. A gourmand wine.
3. Fairview Primo 2010 from Paarl. Exotic nose, elegant, sweetly fruited, floral with an underlying chalky minerality.
4. Kanonkop 2010 from Stellenbosch. Intense, dense, classy, huge length, pastille style.
5. Lanzerac Pionier 2009 from Stellenbosch. The perfect pinotage: intense red cherry flavours, dense and spicy.
6. Lutzville Pinotage 2010 from Namaqualand. A real crowd pleaser. Toasty, green banana, ripe red fruit, sweet spices. Elegant, sugary and fresh.
7. Neil Ellis Vineyard Selection 2010 from Stellenbosch. Toasty oak, redcurrants and mulberries, raspberry jam and chocolate.
8. Rijk’s 2008 from Tulbagh. Sweet and spicy oak, dried stone fruit
9. Wellington Wines La Cave 2010 from Wellington. Complex, black plums, densely fruited
10. Wildekrans Reserve 2010 from Bot River. Minty berries, black plums and candied red fruit. Superior oak management and seamless balance.