Thursday, January 9, 2014

Pinotage: Cheers to a New Year and a New Varietal

Drinking wine is like listening to a great symphony, with each sip, new notes layer upon the next, to create a euphonic blend.  But as wine lovers sometimes we get stuck with the familiar, finding comfort in the full flavor boldness of big Cab, or the refreshingly zesty zing of a Sauvignon Blanc.  But why not celebrate a new year with new experiences?  Any vino enthusiast looking to expand their palate in 2014 can add a new favorite to their list.  The Edible Skinny visited the Wines of South Africa tour when it stopped in Los Angeles, and it didn’t take long to fall in love.  While excited to try South Africa’s take on some California favorites, we found a new varietal we can't live without, South Africa’s Pinotage.

Pinotage is a red wine grape that is South Africa's signature variety.  It is a deliciously drinkable varietal that pairs perfectly with a variety of dishes and seasons.  Pinotage was first discovered in 1925 when Pinot Noir grapes were crossed with Cinsuat.  This velvety smooth and delicately rich wine is known for in contrast and deep in flavors.  Most Pintoages combine a blend of smoky, earth flavors, crossed with notes of banana and other tropical fruits. The majority of the world's plantings of Pinotage are found in South Africa, where it makes up just 6% of the vineyard area but is considered a symbol of the country's distinctive winemaking traditions.  However Pintoages can also be found in Brazil, Canada, Israel, New Zealand, United States and Zimbabwe.

While Edible Skinny still has many more tasting in their future, here are a few Pintoages that had us craving more.  Aaldering was by far our favorite, bold but smooth, its velvety finish would be the perfect compliment to a hearty steak or robust pasta.  Another notable label was Barista, which combines flavors of rich coffee, mulberry, cherry and chocolate.  These decadent notes can be savored as a dessert course with dark chocolate or cheesecake.  Other Pinotages or Pinotage blends to try include: House of Mandela, Seven Sisters, Kaapzicht and Honey Badger.

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