Pinotage Wine

Vineyards in South Africa. Karen Desjardin / Moment / Getty Images

Pinotage is South Africa's signature red wine grape. A gutsy cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault, and rarely taking root anywhere else, Pinotage is a one-of-a-kind rustic red wine that is earthy, fruit-driven and perfect for pairing with all sorts of barbecue.

Understanding Pinotage

Known and either "loved" or "loathed" as South Africa's famous red wine grape varietal, Pinotage, is the direct result of a somewhat unusual cross.

Pinot Noir and Cinsault (as it's known in France) or "Hermitage" (as the same grape is referred to in South Africa) were successfully crossed in 1925 at Stellenbosch University. The intention of the cross was most likely to capture and expand upon Pinot Noir's delicate elegance and Cinsault's hardy-nature. The result being a new red wine grape that not only blends the two grapes together but also their names ("Pinot Noir" and "Hermitage").

Styles of Pinotage

Pinotage may carry a dramatic range of styles. Ranging from a fairly cheap, light-bodied red wine with some funky aromas (read: acetone, paint, rubber and at times banana) all the way to full-bodied red wines with balance, elegance and fully developed black fruit flavors and an enduring finish, sweet, smokey finish.

In general, much of the Pinotage on the market tends to take a rustic profile and often shows earth-driven notes on both the nose and the palate, followed by dark berries, smoke and stout tannins (when left untamed, thanks to the grape's super thick skins), while leaning a little lower on the acidity scale in its natural state.

With a volatile potential palate profile like that, people tend to have a "love it or hate it" relationship with Pinotage. If you fall into the "love it" camp, then this wine can be a fairly flexible food pairing partner, showing exceptionally well with the likes of game, steak, brats, burgers, and pizza.

As the entire South African wine scene has made great strides in both quality and value, Pinotage has piggy-backed on the upward trend and continues to gain momentum and popularity with consumers looking to branch out a bit and take on a new red grape from the New World. This is the perfect wine to toss into the cart when you are ready to bust out of your habitual wine buying habits. Offering a sip of the rugged, rural viticulture scene of South Africa's gorgeous landscapes.

Pinotage Producers to Try

A.A. Badenhorst, Diemersfontein, Graham Beck, Kanonkop, Ken Forrester, L'Avenir, MAN Vintners, Simonsig, Southern Right, Stellenrust