Mysteries of Pinotage
L’Avenir in Stellenbosch is famous for making wonderful chenin blancs and beautiful expressive pinotage. These two grapes are famous varieties which are prominent in the South African market and L’Avenir shines a spotlight on these incredible varieties.
The winemaker is the very talented Dirk Coetzee from the Garden Route in South Africa who has a cute little dog called Archie following him around the winery which hilariously jumps onto the barrels and pulls out the bungs from the barrels hoping you will play fetch with him.
I was treated to a tasting of all 5 pinotages side-by-side that included sparkling rose made in the cap classique method, to a provencal-style still rose in a gorgeous bottle with a glass stopper. The beauty of pinotage is still to be discovered in the UK as it is a lesser-known variety but when pinotage is handled well it has the potential to reflects the terroir making stunning elegant and perfumed wine.
This rose is called Glenrose and the soil type is glenrosa shale which helps showcase the delicate flavours in the wine. Glenrosa is an off-white colour with flecks of pink and cream – when you rub the rock between your fingers it’s soft and leaves white powdery traces. Only 3000 bottles a year are produced of this rose wine, perfect for summer pool party and is only available at the cellar door but Wine & Something UK has it online £28 and it’s worth every penny!
The three Pinotage reds range from exceptionally light Beaujolais-style served best slightly chilled to the ‘Provenance’ range which has some oak and the premium from a single block, which is ripe with sweet spice and goes perfectly with a local dish called bobotie which is somewhere between shepherds pie and moussaka. The minced meat, rice and sweet raisins dish is served with salsa, chutney and the sweetness with the wine is perfect.
South Africa’s wine quality has been on the rise for a while and its because of talented producers like Dirk. When he started working at L’Avenir he pulled out 15 different grape varieties to focus on chenin and pinotage. Single block is all about focusing on vines from one specific plot and bottling so your really get a sense of place in this wine and what it can do. The pinotage vines are 18 years old plus and come from high up on the hill where the wind blows strongly all day long and sits alongside one tree - as a result the roots of the bush vines are short and the wine has great acidity.
The ‘Provenance’ pinotage is perfect to open at a BBQ with friends, it is approachable with delicious plums and a little bit of chocolate. There is a lot of romance inside this bottle to blow you away – and don’t be put off by the screw cap.
L’Avenir started using screw caps in 2006, which is great for the environment and much easier to open.
Moving to the whites, chenin blanc is such a wonderful versatile grape from being the perfect day drinker with racy acidity and will cool you down on a hot day to the other end of the spectrum where it has been aged in French oak barrels and has become much more rounded and luscious as a result. Again in the middle of the road there is L’Avenir’s Provenance range which has a subtle hint of oak but keeps that dancing, racy nature.
I was hugely lucky to be here at harvest with the grapes are bursting with juice and on their way into the winery.
L’Avenir means ‘the future’ in French and these really are forward-looking wines. Check out these wines at Wine and Something, where they range from £10-£28 a bottle
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