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Pinotage in New Zealand - a 2001 review
by Sue Courtney
January 6th, 2001

[History] [Producers and Published Ratings] [ Statistics] [References ]

History

Pinotage, the South African grape variety, was introduced into New Zealand by pioneering winemaker, Corbans, who was responsible for many innovations in New Zealand winemaking, including the use of cultured yeast, temperature controlled fermentation, new oak and stainless steel tanks as well as the production of New Zealand's first commercial sparkling wine made by the Charmat process.

Corbans planted the first Pinotage vineyard at Whenuapai on the northern outskirts of Auckland, and the first wine was made in 1964. Whenuapai is between Hobsonville and Kumeu on the Auckland map.

The variety was quick to catch on with the handful of winemakers, especially those in Auckland, for the thick skins of the grapes were able to stand up to the region's humidity as well as offering resistance to diseases.

However, the quality of the early wines was variable.

Frank Thorpy, in his 'Wines of New Zealand' (1971) says of Pinotage "I have never liked this grape". He says that pinotage produced a wine of pale colour, and colouring matter or wine of a deep colour has to be blended in.

Peter Saunders, in 'A guide to New Zealand Wine', 1986, says of Pinotage. "Ten years ago Pinotage was added to hybrid wine 'to give it life'; but the hybrid strength was too much for the Pinotage and the latter got a poor name, undeservedly. On its own, or with a small amount of Cabernet or Pinot Noir, it can be a very enjoyable wine".

Another view is that hybrid wine was added to Pinotage to give it colour. Either way, the additions of hybrids to Pinotage were not a success with the consumer. One little mistake can take years and years to shrug off.

NZ's first gold medal winning pinotage was the Nobilo 1970 Pinotage (a 100% pinotage). This won a Gold Cup for the best wine at the 1973 Trade and Industry Exhibition and showed what could be achieved with the grape.

Now, since the late 1990's, Pinotage has been undergoing a revival with new clones, developed in South Africa, becoming available. The grape is grown in most regions, from the most northerly to the most southern vineyards, although in tiny quantities at the southern extremes. And there are some very good examples indeed.

[History] [Producers and Published Ratings] [ Statistics] [References ]

Producers and Ratings

I have tried most, but not all of these producer's wines. For the recent vintages I have supplemented my notes with ratings from two of NZ's wine commentators who have published books.

SC = Sue Courtney, that is me.
BC = Bob Campbell MW who critiques the wines in the "Cuisine Wine Annual 2001". Rating come from Cuisine Magazine tastings during the past year.
MC = Michael cooper, who writes an annual wine guide "The Buyers Guide to NZ Wines 2001" is the latest source.

The Producers.

Amor-Bendall, Wainui Beach, Gisborne
From the 1999 vintage, this company produced a wine labelled "Amor-Bendall Summer Red Merlot-Pinotage 1999". This is a 50-50 blend of both grapes. When I tasted the wine (Sep 2000) I though it was a bit light and simple. It may gain with age, or perhaps I tasted from a dud bottle.
SC 2.5 stars.

Ascension, Matakana, North Auckland
A new winery which opened in October 2000 and amongst their debut wines is a delicious, forward fruit pinotage from 2000. My notes: "It's vibrantly coloured with smoky, game meat aromas and soft cherry and plum flavours with cinnamon, cloves and peppery spice, savoury notes and a touch of sultry earthiness. It's a lovely light wine with virtually no tannins, perfect for the café luncheon or for summer sipping in the late afternoon, yet sturdy enough to stand up to beef and lamb". Very impressive. The first pinotage sourced from Matakana fruit.
SC 4 stars, BC 3 stars (83/100).

Babich, Henderson Auckland
From 1999, they have produced a 'Winemakers Reserve' Pinotage from grapes grown in Gimblett Road, Hawkes Bay. I haven't tasted this wine but from all accounts it is very good, so I will try and source a bottle.
Babich also grow Pinotage from Henderson in Auckland, which for the past few years has been combined with Cabernet Sauvignon but for the current release (1999) is combined with Cabernet Franc.
Babich Winemakers Reserve Pinotage 1999: BC 4 stars 88/100. MC 4.5 stars
Babich Pinotage Cabernet 1999: MC 3.5 stars

Chard Farm, Central Otago, South Island, NZ
Chard Farm sourced some pinotage from Olssens of Bannockburn (see below), to add to a special blend. It is the Chard Farm "Vera 99" Syrah/Cabernet Sauvignon/Pinotage and the notes from their web site at (http://www.chardfarm.co.nz/notes.htm - Jan 2001) say " This is a very special wine - named after Rob's beautiful grandmother Vera Hay, who attained the ripe old age of 99 on the 29th October 2000! The grapes come from a very hot site in the Bannockburn region and the 1999 vintage provided the necessary heat to reach full physiological ripeness. Aged initially in French Oak and then transferred mid season to American Oak, the wine is developing magnificently. It's a big, plump, fleshy, mouthfilling wine, with sufficient tannin for cellaring - a very rare Central Otago wine. Only 58 cases made. Price -- $34.00". No ratings.

Cottle Hill, Kerikeri, Northland
Pinotage is amongst the grapes grown on their 2.5ha vineyard in Northland. Sold mainly by mail order, cellar door and at their restaurant.
Cottle Hill 1998 Pinotage: BC 3 stars 81/100. MC 3 stars

Grove Mill, Waihopai Valley Road, Renwick, Marlborough
This producer has bottled a straight pinotage in the past under the Sanctuary label.
Sanctuary 1998 Marlborough Pinotage: BC 4 stars 85/100, MC 3 stars.
The current (1999) release is a very light and drinkable, blended with Pinot Noir.
Sanctuary Marlborough Pinotage Pinot Noir 1999: SC 3 stars, MC 3 stars
Grove Mill also produce a wine labelled as "Southern White Marlborough Pinotage". There was a bottling in 1998. This may be the same as the Sanctuary labelling. (This label found on a web search of pinotage on www.searchnz.co.nz).

Kerr Farm, Kumeu, North West Auckland
Some of the country's oldest Pinotage vines, with the addition of newer clones. Pinotage has been produced under this label since 1995. The latest release, 1999, is full and rounded with spicy aromas, plum and raspberry fruit, light tannins, a touch of earthiness and a lingering fruitcake-like richness. It also tastes delicious when accompanied by a slice of rich fruitcake.
SC 4 stars, BC 3 stars 79/100, MC 4 stars.

Limeburners Bay, Hobsonville, Auckland
Some worthwhile pinotage made in the early 1990's, and the 1991 was especially memorable. However the grapes were purchased from a grower in Kumeu.
Limeburners did not persist with the variety after the price of the grapes went up. I've heard the owners are planting a new vineyard a little to the north west of their current location. Maybe they will include pinotage amongst their new vines.

Marsden Estate, Kerikeri, Northland
Another Northland winery with 4.5 hectares of their own vines, which include Pinotage. Again, sold mostly at the winery cellar door and in their café.
Marsden Estate 1998 Pinotage BC 3 stars 80/100, MC 4 stars

Matua Valley, Waimauku, North West Auckland
This company no longer produces a 100% Pinotage. For the last few years they have blended in about 25% of Cabernet Sauvignon. This is in the 'cheapie' range in NZ and is a good BBQ quaffer. The pinotage is sourced from Gisborne.
I have some old Matua 100% pinotage, made from Auckland fruit, lying around somewhere.
Matua Valley Pinotage Cabernet Sauvignon 1999: MC 2.5 stars.

Montana
NZ's largest winery. Started in Auckland and now has wineries in Auckland, Gisborne, Hastings and Marlborough. An early producer of pinotage with some success - most recently the 1989 won silver medals.
Current releases come under the 'Saints' label, first release was the 1994 vintage.
Montana Saints Pinotage 1998 is sourced from the Korokipo Vineyard in Hawkes Bay. My notes Sep 2000 "Nice, earthy, berry characters with dusky tannins and just a hint of sweet leather. Lovely sweet fruit emerges contradicted by some tart blueberry. It's soft and rounded and lingers nicely on the palate. A rich example of NZ pinotage."
SC 4 stars, MC 4 stars

Muddy Water, Waipara, North Canterbury
A small amount of Pinotage has been blended into their 1999 Laborare From the tasting notes on their web site page (http://www.muddywater.co.nz/tasting.htm - Jan 2001)
"This wonderfully complex red was made using Sangiovese, Pinotage, Shiraz, Merlot, Cab Sav and Cab Franc. In oak barrels for 12 months. The colour is deep and the nose rich in cassis and cedar. The palate is full of ripe fruit and balanced by soft lingering tannins. The result is a blend of southern hemisphere and European characters. " I tasted this wine and found it to have a delicious myriad of flavours with the dusky, gamey, spiciness of pinotage showing through.
SC 3.5 stars

Nobilo Vintners, Huapai (Kumeu), North West Auckland
The second largest producer in NZ and now totally owned by BRL Hardy (Australia). Nobilo has been a Pinotage specialist since the introduction of the variety and some of their 'oldies' are in my collection. The 1970 was the first evere gold medal pinotage in NZ. More recently, the 1991 Huapai Pinotage won silver at the Liquorland Top 100.
Nobilo 'Grand Pinotage' is an expensive, dense, wine and when I tasted about three years ago thought approachable and very good. There has only been one release, to my knowledge, from the 1996 vintage. SC 4 stars, MC 3.5 stars.
Nobilo Huapai Pinotage 1998 I tasted in August 2000. "It is a good example of the characters of the grape. It has a dense red colour, and is chewy and gamey, with black plums and red berry fruit, soft dusky tannins and a touch of vanillin oak." Well priced at just $14 ex the winery shop. SC 3.5 stars, MC 3.5 stars.

Ohinemuri Estate, Waikato region, south-east of Auckland.
I have not seen these wines for some years. The fruit is sourced from Gisborne. The 1994 and 1995 both won bronze at the Easter Show.
Ohinemuri Estate Pinotage 'Primeur' 1999: MC 3 stars

Okahu Estate, Kaitaia, Northland
This is NZ's most northern wine producer, although other growers are planting in the vicinity now. 1998 saw the first release of 100% Pinotage - Okahu Estate Paula's Pinotage Reserve. It is a superb wine with great depth of flavour. I was besotted with the vibrancy, flavour and length of this wine - also lashings of American oak which probably seduced me. SC 5 stars, BC 4 stars 87/100, MC 4 stars. Silver medal Air NZ Wine Awards 1999.
There has been a subsequent release from the 1999 vintage. I haven't tasted it, though. It received a silver medal in the Air NZ Wine Awards 2000.
Okahu also blend pinotage into their light, spicy, savoury Pinotage Chambourcin Merlot 1999. SC 3 stars, MC 3.5 stars

Olssens of Bannockburn, Central Otago
Olssens is undoubtedly the most southerly grower of Pinotage in the world. The 146 vines are of an unknown clone and the grapes are destined for Roger the Red a blend of Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz sold only at the cellar door. A few of the vines came from "rouges" in the Chardonnay that Olssens sourced originally from Chard Farm but the bulk of the vines came via the Vine Improvement Programme - sourced for Olssens by Robin Dicey in 1994 for 1995 planting. Thanks to John Olssen for providing the information and confirming the source of the fruit used in the Chard Farm Vera blend.

Parker MC, Gisborne
Phil Parker in Gisborne has produced each year a wine called 'First Light Red', named because Gisborne is the first city in New Zealand to catch the new light of each day. The wine, made from merlot and pinotage grapes, is released within seven weeks of harvesting, and is usually the first red wine of the new vintage to reach the shelves.

Pleasant Valley, Henderson, West Auckland
Pleasant Valley owns vineyards in Kumeu as well as in Henderson and the Pinotage may be a blend of both. They have been producing a Pinotage consistently since the 1960's. Signature Selection is their top label and the 1994 won silver at the Easter Show while the 1995 won bronze at the Liquorland Top 100 and the Easter Show. (I haven't tasted any of the wines recently).
Pleasant Valley Signature Selection Auckland Pinotage 1998: MC 3.5 stars
Yelas Winemakers Reserve Auckland Pinotage 1998: MC 3.5 stars. Named after Stephen Yelas, the owner of Pleasant Valley. One of the earlier Pleasant Valley labels was 'Chateau Yelas'.

Poupare Park, Gisborne
A light, unoaked, early drinking style noted by Michael Cooper as being made in 1994. MC 2.5 stars

Soljans Estate, Henderson, West Auckland
This winery seems to produce a Pinotage each year, however the quality can be variable depending on where the fruit is source. I have always preferred those from Auckland fruit and I liked the 1997. The 1995 won silver at the Easter Show. I was disappointed in the 1998 which was sourced from Gisborne.
The current release is Soljans Gisborne Pinotage 1999. MC 3 stars. I haven't tasted it. Another writer wrote "kind-of-interesting if we are in the mood".

Spencer Hill (Tasman Bay Wines), Nelson
Spencer Hill Evans Vineyard Moutere Pinotage 1999 is the first to come out of the Nelson region at the top of the South Island. I tasted it alongside the Kerr Farm 99 in August. My notes "Lighter in colour than its Auckland counterpart. It reminds me at first of a Pinot Noir with its cherry-like fruit, then plums, prunes, spice and a nice depth of earthiness emerge, while a touch of acidity gives the wine a lifted fresh finish." SC 4 stars, BC 3 stars 80/100, MC 3.5 stars

Te Awa Farm, Hawkes Bay
I haven't tasted any of their pinotage prior to the Te Awa Farm Longlands Pinotage 1998, which I loved and selected as one of my wines of the year 2000. I understand, though that prior vintages were overcropped and not of great quality. Never mind, it is a top drop now and I look forward to tasting the 1999, although it was not such a ripe year.
Te Awa Longlands Pinotage 1998: SC 5 stars, BC 4 stars 86/100, MC 4.5 stars.

Villa Maria Estate, Auckland
This company first produced a Pinotage in 1969, but more recently have produced a 50/50 blend of Pinotage and Cabernet Sauvignon using Gisborne and Hawkes Bay fruit. The latest bottling was 1995.

Villa Noortheim, Clevedon, Auckland
A new wine producer with their first Pinotage in 2000. The desctiption from their website says "The Pinotage wine has a fresh grapey and slightly sweet flavour with plummy and raspberry overtones". They also blend Pinotage with Chardonnay into the Villa Noortheim Rose Methode Champenoise. Not tasted.

Historical Pinotage Producers

Aspen Ridge (Te Kauwhata): Pinotage, including a white made from free-run juice.
Balic Estate (Henderson, Auckland): Pinotage
Collards (Henderson, Auckland): Pinotage, Pinotage / Cabernet Sauvignon (70/30) and Rose of Pinotage
Corbans (Auckland); Pinotage. Corbans introduced Pinotage into NZ and grew the grape in Auckland - Corbans is now owned by Montana and any Pinotage still grown by the collective company is no longer seen as a varietal bottling under the Corbans label.
Delegats (Henderson, Auckland): Pinotage
Lincoln (Henderson, Auckland): Pinotage grown at Riverlea, near Riverhead, Auckland.
Lombardi (Hawkes Bay): Pinotage
Matua Valley (Auckland: Pinotage and Cabernet Pinotage (grown in Huapai, Kumeu and Whenuapai areas)
McWilliams (Hawkes Bay): Pinotage
Pacific Vineyards (Henderson, Auckland): Pinotage
Penfolds (Henderson, Auckland): Pinotage and Pinotage Cabernet (eventually incorporated into Montana)
San Marino (Kumeu, Auckland): Pinotage and Cabernet Pinotage (50/50) - (now known as Kumeu River)
Selaks (Kumeu, Auckland): Pinotage. In 1976, this was Selaks 'No.1' red, and a Bronze medal winner in 1974 and 1975
Totara Vineyards (Thames): Pinotage
Waihirere Wines (Gisborne): Pinotage (now incorporated into Montana)

There is still more Pinotage grown than accounts for the single varietal bottlings and blended bottlings. I suspect that much Pinotage contributes toward cask wine.

[History] [Producers and Published Ratings] [ Statistics] [References ]

Statistical Section

Pinotage Statistics from the Wine Insitute's Annual Reports

Year

Hectares of Pinotage Planted

Tonnes of Pinotage Produced

NZ's Total Tonnage

NZ's Total Vine area (hectares)

No of wineries

2003 (estimated)

87

n/a

n/a

n/a

14802

2002

82

863

118700

13173

398

2001

81

487

71000

11648

380

2000

75

868

80100

10197

358

1999

65

444

79700

9000

334

1998

64

887

78300

7580

293

1997

83

504

60000

7410

262

1996

76

949

75300

6610

238

1995

66

1097

74500

6110

204

1994

77

832

54000

6110

190

1993

76

596

42621

6100

175

1992

66

615

55500

6100

166

1991

52

940

65708

5980

150

1990

52

860

70265

5800

131

1989

52

964

60335

5400

123

1988

n/a

941

51509

4880

112

1987

n/a

583

49727

n/a

112

1986

n/a

725

54694

4500

n/a

A compilation of Statistics from the "Bank of New Zealand Wine and Grape Industry Statistical Annual 2000".

The national production of Pinotage in 2000 of 868 tonnes was just 1.11% of the country's total grape production.
687 tonnes (79.1%) of the production were from winery owned vineyards, while the remaining 181 tonnes (20.9%) was produced by growers.
In the following table

  • All figures relate to the 2000 vintage only
  • Areas are expressed in hectares (ha)
  • Money is expressed in NZ dollars

Area

Pinotage planted (in ha)

Region's total planting (all varieties)

Pinotage as a % of region's total planting

Tonnes of Pinotage produced in 2000

Region's total production (all varieties)

Pinotage as a % of region's total production

Average price per tonne***

Percent of grafted Pinotage vines in region

Auckland / Northland*

19.4

393

2.39%

68

1468

4.63%

$1400.00

100%

Waikato

0.4

119

0.33%

0

637

0

 

100%

Gisborne

12.4

1681

0.73%

199

21820

0.91%

$942.68

74%

Hawkes Bay

22.0

2443

0.90%

383

23886

1.60%

$1206.97

100%

Wairarapa / Wellington

0

327

0

0

1124

0

   

Marlborough

17.4

4054

0.43%

216

26212

0.83%

$932.48

100%

Nelson

0.5

203

0.45%

2

1125

0.17%

 

98%

Canterbury

0

232

0

0

788**

0

   

Waipara

0.6

210

0.50%

0

 

0

 

0%

Central Otago

0.1

280

0.05%

0

1009

0

 

0%

TOTAL

72.8

9942

0.73%

868

78069

1.11%

$970.12

 

* Northland is combined into Auckland in most of the totals.
       Separate figures were given for tonnes produced: Northland = 7, Auckland = 61
** Total includes Canterbury and Waipara combined
*** Average price per tonne, calculated from those who responded to the question in the survey.

[History] [Producers and Published Ratings] [ Statistics] [References ]

References:
Campbell, Bob. New Zealand Wine Annual. 1991.
Campbell, Bob. Cuisine Wine Annual. 2001.
Cooper, Michael. Buyers Guide to New Zealand Wines. Various years.
Saunders, Peter. A Guide to New Zealand Wine. Various years.
The Bank of New Zealand Wine and Grape Industry Statistical Annual 2000.
Thorpy, Frank. New Zealand Wine Guide. 1976.
Thorpy, Frank. Wine in New Zealand. 1971
Wine Institute of New Zealand. Annual Report. Various Years

[History] [Producers and Published Ratings] [ Statistics] [References ]

Other Links
Leading the Production of Pinotage in New Zealand (August 2000)
Don't go past the Pinotage(March 1998)
Reviews of some Pinotage wines


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