The Best South African Wine You've Never Heard Of

Staff Writer
It's time to drink all the pinotage we can find

Photo Sasabune Omakase Modified: Flickr/erin/CC 4.0

While South Africa produces some beautiful shirazes and cabernets, pinotage is a national specialty.

Looking for the perfect addition to your summer barbecue? Try a bottle of pinotage, the smoky and spicy South African varietal that is earning a following among wine lovers. While South Africa produces some beautiful shirazes and cabernets, pinotage is a national specialty. A great pinotage will exhibit distinctive spicy, earthy, and smoky flavors, but also have notes of cherry.

A cross of pinot noir and cinsaut, the grape was first developed in a lab in 1925 and first sold by the Stellenbosch Farmer’s Winery in 1959. Today, some of the best pinotages still come from the Stellenbosch region. Here are some of our favorites:

BEYERSKLOOF Pinotage "Diesel" 2009 (Stellenbosch, South Africa), $70, has good structure, but is wonderfully smooth on the tongue. Have a glass with steak or grilled mushrooms, and you’ll be a pinotage convert for life.

Kanonkop consistently produces some of South Africa’s best wine at affordable prices, and their KANONKOP Pinotage 2010 (Stellenbosch, South Africa), $37, is no exception. With notes of spice and lavender, the wine possesses beautiful clarity and a surprisingly creamy texture on the mid-palate.

For all you skeptics, try a Cape Blend, which must be comprised of 30 to 70 percent pinotage. KANONKOP "Kadette" Red 2011 (Stellenbosch, South Africa), $12, is an excellent option, and a bargain at that. At 50 percent pinotage, this blend keeps the grape’s signature smokiness, but gains added flavor from the cabernet sauvignon, merlot, and cabernet franc.

So have a sip of South Africa, and discover all this surprising varietal has to offer!

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