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History is made and relived with Pinotage
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Two producers of South Africa's high quality Pinotage wines this year repeated history. Kanonkop Estate and Clos Malverne both had winning wines at the very first Absa Top 10 Pinotage Competition in 1997. In 2006 at the tenth anniversary of this prestigious annual wine competition they are among the top ten winners again. The results were announced at the Kelvin Grove Club in Cape Town.

The Kanonkop Pinotage 2004 (winemaker Abrie Beeslaar) is the seventh wine from this Stellenbosch estate to be selected="true" as one of the Top 10 Pinotages, while the Clos Malverne Pinotage Reserve 2003 (winemaker Isak Smit) is the third selected="true" Top 10 Pinotage wine from this wine cellar in Devon Valley.

Another Top 10 Pinotage winner that stood out is the Tukulu Papkuilsfontein Pinotage 2004 (winemaker Adian Fry). It is the fourth Top 10 winning wine entered by Tukulu in Darling, the flagship black empowerment brand in the Distell stable. The co-owners are Maluti Groenekloof Community Trust, Leopont 98 Properties and Distell.

Stellenzicht Vineyards in Stellenbosch also proved their Pinotage mastership with their third Top 10 wine, the Stellenzicht Golden Triangle Pinotage 2005 (winemaker Guy Webber), while Allée Bleue in Franschhoek entered their second Top 10 wine, namely the Allée Bleue Pinotage 2005 (winemaker Gerda Willers).

However, one of this year's first-time winners is linked with the earliest history of South Africa's homegrown Pinotage cultivar. It is assumed that the first experimental Pinotage vineyard was established at the Elsenburg Agricultural College and the first Pinotage wine was made in small casks there in 1941. Morewag wine farm near Klapmuts and Elsenburg Agricultural College, in 2002 asked Elsenburg College students, with Mark van Buuren playing the leading role, in their practical year to make Morewag’s very first Pinotage wine. The very same wine, Morewag Pinotage 2002, this year was selected="true" as one of the Absa Top 10 Pinotage winners.

The other first-time winners of the Absa Top 10 Pinotage trophy are the Boland Cellar Winemakers Selection Pinotage 2004 (winemaker Bernard Smuts), Camberley Pinotage 2005 (winemaker John Nel), Pulpit Rock Pinotage 2004 (winemaker Piet Kleinhans) and Wellington Cellar Pinotage Reserve 2003 (winemakers Koos Carstens en Gert Boersen).

The terroir orientated versatility of this truly South African red grape variety is showing with more winning wines coming from more winegrowing areas. In 1997 when the first competition was held, seven of the Top 10 wines came from the Stellenbosch district. This year four came from Stellenbosch, namely Camberley, Clos Malverne, Kanonkop and Stellenzicht. The Paarl district for the first time delivered three Top 10 wines, those from Boland Cellar, Morewag and Wellington Cellar. The neighbouring Swartland and Darling districts each provided a winning wine from Pulpit Rock and Tukulu respectively, whilst the Pinotage entered by Allée Bleue was made from grapes sourced in the Western Cape region.

“As Absa we are proud of our partnership with the Pinotage Association and the innovative winemakers who share our commitment to quality. The Competition contributed to raise the profile of Pinotage both locally and abroad, and encouraged our winemakers to strive for excellence. The success of the partnership in the last 10 years gives me confidence in the future of our association and in the ability of South Africans to compete with the best," says Steve Booysen, Group Chief Executive of Absa.

The judging of the record 120 entries took place in September at Devon Valley Hotel and according to the convener of the panel and Cape Wine Master, Duimpie Bayly, the overall quality of all the entries was exceptionally high this year. Very few wines did not impress the judges. It was difficult to select the 20 finalist wines and very difficult to exclude some of those wines from the final Top 10 Pinotage winners. The golden threat of the style of wines is beautiful fruit with a sophisticated balance of concentrated flavours and body.

The other judges were Guido Francque (food and wine connoisseur from Belgium and honorary member of the Pinotage Association), Janåke Johansson (Swedish wine consultant and trader), Charles Hopkins (cellar master and vice-chairman of the Pinotage Association), Neil Pendock (wine writer), Sue van Wyk (Cape Wine Master from Australia) and Dave Hughes (international wine connoisseur from South Africa).

The 2006 Top 10 Pinotage wines in alphabetical order:

Allée Bleue Pinotage 2005
Boland Cellar Winemakers Selection Pinotage 2004
Camberley Pinotage 2005
Clos Malverne Pinotage Reserve 2003
Kanonkop Pinotage 2004
Morewag Pinotage 2002
Pulpit Rock Pinotage 2004
Stellenzicht Golden Triangle 2005
Tukulu Papkuilsfontein Pinotage 2004
Wellington Cellar Pinotage Reserve 2003

The runners up out of the twenty finalists were:

Neethlingshof Pinotage 2002
Spier Private Collection Pinotage 2004
Slanghoek Private Collection 2004
Longridge Pinotage 2004
Dornier Pinotage 2004
Cloof Pinotage 2003
Groot Eiland Pinotage 2005
Bellevue PK Morkel Pinotage 2003
Kleine Parys Pinotage 2005
Fantail Pinotage 2005

Presentation packages of the 2006 Absa Top 10 Pinotage wines will soon be available for sale at the Wine-of-the-Month-Club. Tel. 021-6578100. E-mail:

For more information on Pinotage and the South African Pinotage Association, visit the website or visit the Absa Top 10 Pinotage Press Room and Archive on

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