You need this wine in your life - David and Nadia Pinotage
Okay, so I am totally biased towards pinotage. As a South African I have often found solace and a welcoming feeling of home every time I open up a bottle of Pinotage, but this time it was different. This time there was no reminiscing of the past, this was a look ahead to what South Africa can really do. The David and Nadia Pinotage had instantly become a wine I needed in my life, and you need it too.
This is not your dad’s pinotage
The South African seem to keep the best of this wine for itself, probably because pinotage does not have much of a following around the world. And yet it is South Africa’s signature red grape, even though some would argue that their Bordeaux varietals like cabernet sauvignon and merlot are more true to the country’s winemaking heritage. In fact its that very Bordelaise heritage that influenced the amazing wines that pinotage would become, a heavy, full bodied, but smooth drinking leathery wine that was a perfect meal pairing for hearty meals. Never mind that it was meant to help the delicate pinot noir survive the super hot South African summers by crossing it with cinsault. That is at least one theory, we will never fully understand its purpose for its existence, but pinotage is here and has become a symbol of South African wine. It just happens to be a full bodied, hearty wine like every other South African red.
Or is it? Does it have to be? With so many wineries around the world playing around with techniques that produce lighter wines, have we actually stumbled upon what pinotage was supposed to be, what it was meant to be? The David and Nadia Pinotage is just that, a lighter bodied pinotage that is fresh and bright as opposed to dark and wild. It feels as if somebody has come across a secret, or a long lost truth about what pinotage was supposed to be, what it was envisioned to be.
It drinks like a Cru Beaujolais…but better?
The David and Nadia Pinotage from their Topography range is an exercise in terroir and crafty winemaking. Pinotage has a propensity to ripen long into the harvest season. Leave it to ripen long and it will grow heavy, dark, and full bodied. It makes a hearty wine that is like a lion’s roar across the savannah in its opulence. But David and Nadia might have picked up on something, instead harvesting earlier in the season and going about their winemaking process in a more natural manner. I could not confirm this, but I could almost swear that at least in some part they are using carbonic maceration, a process typical of Beaujolais wine.
And that is what this wine reminded me of, a great Cru Beaujolais. Not the simple, soft, light hearted basic stuff, but rather the serious works of great winemakers like Marcel LaPierre, Guy Breton, or the father and son Dutraive who make excellent Cru and Villages wines (more on that later.) The wines are still light, but complex and this pinotage blows some of those Beaujolais wines right out of the water. Contrary to most pinotage wines, this beautiful example is more acid driven than tannic. Its brighter, a little juicier, but much more of the herbal notes that are typical of this varietal come out rather than the gamy, meaty notes. The herbs are resoundingly African as well, more rooibos tea than anything while the floral notes are more like proteas if you have ever gotten close enough to smell one.
I could say this wine is glou glou, but that would not do it justice. I could say that this wine is heavenly and complex, but for a pinotage it is still far from it. But when you take all of the characteristics of this wine you get something much more profound and rewarding. Yes it is incredibly light and refreshing for a red wine, but those African aromas make it so much more complex than most other vins de soif. Its like drinking rooibos tea. Fresh and uplifting, but also soothing and calming. Someone said these complexities make it drink like a Cru Beaujolais, but I think that its unique character and true sense of place make it so much more beautiful and better.
So has this changed pinotage for me?
I kept wandering whether the David and Nadia Pinotage would ruin my view of pinotage as a whole, or change it for the better. When so many producers, such as the iconic Kanonkop, are making such rich, bold, bodacious wines, does this lighter bodied wine shake it up a bit or totally revolutionize how we view the grape? Maybe yes, maybe no. I have felt as though the true vision for pinotage was revealed through this wine, for a light bodied red to stand up to the intense African summers. But after 70 plus years of fuller bodied wines, the cat is already out of the bag. And in Africa, thats usually a pretty damn big cat!
But this wine has totally changed my perception of pinotage, as a grape that has so much more to offer in the hands of winemakers with great taste and vision, whatever those may be. I still love those bold, heavy, gamey wines that are so rich and opulent. I also love how this lighter style of pinotage can be so fun and yet also so soothing for the soul. Heavier wines have their place, their special occasion, but this is a wine I could drink every day and all year long. With a slight chill, holy shit this wine is fucking incredible! All I can say is, for people who love pinotage, or people who adore Beaujolais then you need the David and Nadia pinotage in your life right now.