Pinotage – there are few New Zealand producers of South Africa's number one red wine grape here in New Zealand but those who make it are are paying homage to the best qualities of the grape and if consumers would just taste it and get to grips with the bold fruit flavours and underlying gamey savouriness, they would love it, I'm sure.
But sadly Pinotage is not fashionable, despite the best efforts of the ardent few. Why? Well perhaps because of the dodgy wines that were produced well over a generation ago – long before Marlborough sauvignon blanc was on the radar - and lack of enthusiasm from wine critics who remember the poorly made wines from that era.
But hey, we've moved on from the seventies, we have the best clones and passionate winemakers, so Pinotage really should be given a go. As Peter May, the world's number one Pinotage fan and author of the book Pinotage, says, "It needs a marketing campaign."
So it takes the dedicated growers we have already, to persevere. And why not, because Pinotage is eminently suited to New Zealand's climate.
Look at the weather we’ve had here recently. Rain, rain and more rain, especially in the northern part of the country with the South Island getting a sizeable drink the other day too. Pinotage, with its thick skins that end up giving the wines such an intense and deep colour, can withstand these conditions, and the grape seems to have a natural protection against disease caused by dampness and humidity that other grape varieties are so prone to.
When I received the news that Muddy Water had been sold the only way I could think of drinking a toast to owner Jane East and winemaker Belinda Gould's future successes, was to open a bottle of the outstanding Muddy Water Waipara Pinotage 2009 – which I've reviewed in my blog entry of March 27th.
With the Muddy Water on the table it seemed an appropriate time to open the new Kidnapper Cliffs Hawkes Bay Pinotage 2009 and compare two east coast wines that come from regions that are on different islands and, as the black-backed gull flies, are 500 kilometres apart.
Not surprisingly there were similarities between the two wines, most notably the intense fruitiness and the underlying gamey savouriness. But the contrast was perhaps in the acidity and oak regimes. The Kidnappers Cliff wine whisked me to Bordeaux, while the Muddy Water had more Burgundian traits. And that difference surely comes down to the winemaking.
Kidnapper Cliffs Hawkes Bay Pinotage 2009 is a deep and intense in its rich red black colour. A rich, full-bodied, bramble-fruited, Bordeaux-like red with classy French oak tantalising the olfactory senses, it tastes ripe, juicy, creamy and spicy with nuances of Syrah-like pepper and roses, smoky French oak, cherry and blackberry fruit and rounded, mouth-filling tannins. There's a deep, rich, smoky savouriness that is really appealing and the fruit dissolves into the tannins on the finish. A serious wine with a sensuous, sexy, je ne sais quoi appeal. If an "I don't like Pinotage person' was given this wine blind, he/she would enjoy this wine for what they were smelling and tasting, rather than forming opinion from a name, because the wine is truly outstanding.
Kidnapper Cliffs is part of the Robertson family of wines that also includes Dry River and Te Awa. Te Awa, of course, has been Hawkes Bay's most outstanding producer of Pinotage for several years, so it's good to see the grapes are making it into the premium Kidnappers Cliff brand.
Te Awa's Ant MacKenzie and Dry River's Dr Neil McCallum collaborate on winemaking and viticultural, so if Neil McCallum can put his name behind a venture that makes Pinotage, then surely it's worth thinking about again. Perhaps Kidnapper Cliffs is Pinotage's new marketing campaign.
Kidnapper Cliffs Hawkes Bay Pinotage 2009 has 14% alcohol on the label and is sealed witht a natural cork. It costs around $45 a bottle.
Check out the Kidnapper Cliffs website, www.kidnappercliffs.com for more.
© Sue Courtney
29 Mar 2011