By Lisa Rowlands

Grown almost exclusively in its native South Africa, the Pinotage grape has not always had a good reputation for winemaking. Historically, this productive variety has been synonymous with low quality, unpleasantly aromatic wines. However, in recent decades and particularly since the end of Apartheid, growers and winemakers have begun to discover the grape’s true potential, picking fruits later and employing expertise in the cellar to soften the grape’s acetone-esque aromas and produce rich, full bodied and flavoursome mono-varietals and blends. The formation of The Pinotage Association - a group of passionate wine producers intent on championing the national variety, has also led to a massive increase in quality.

Nowadays, Pinotage accounts for around seven-thousand hectares of vine in South Africa. It remains an unpredictable and divisive grape with some producers steering clear of it altogether and others emphatically promoting its worth. The best Pinotage varietals fall into either of the following two categories: dark, powerful, tannic wines which age into elegant examples, and bright, fruitful expressions that are more approachable in youth.

Outside of South Africa, the success of Pinotage has been limited to small plantings in California and New Zealand.