Wine Q&A: Is Pinotage the same as Pinot Noir? - WineUncorked: Wine Reviews and Tips

Is Pinotage the same as Pinot Noir?

No not quite. Known as the signature grape of South Africa, Pinotage may have started life as the Pinot Noir grape but it got crossed with another classic French grape variety called Cinsault to enable it to better survive the hot South African sun. The resulting grape had a hard life being accepted from its 1920s origins at the Stellenbosch University - mainly because the wines had a tendancy to smell like a bicycle tyre or sometimes paint.

Research suggests that these 'off' aromas are the result of fermenting the Pinotage grape juice at too low a temperature, causing an excess of the chemical isoamyl acetate. Reducing the time the pressed grape skins are in contact with the fermenting grape juice also reduces the concentration of this Pinotage aroma as well as careful selection of the yeast strain used.

The Pinotage Association of South Africa publishes the results of ongoing research to improve both the wines and grapes of this variety. Their 2019 report highlights a project to find Pinotage grape vine mutations that show better traits and so ensure its long-term survival.

Pinotage wines have seen a revival of interest in the last ten years having developed their own styles and flavours away from the probable original 1920s intention of creating a Rhone-type French wine which would copy the style of Hermitage.

Although the French region of Hermitage uses predominately Syrah grapes to make its wines, the name was associated with the Cinsault grape in South Africa. Why this confusion occurred is not clear but the South African grape term Hermitage, combined with Pinot Noir, gave rise to the naming of Pinotage.

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