Lanzerac Wine Estate celebrates 60 years of pioneering Pinotage…
Pinotage is having a moment. Whether it’s garnering gold medals in wine competitions or impressing critics both at home and abroad, this proudly South African cultivar is finally enjoying its moment in the sun. And Lanzerac Wine Estate in the Stellenbosch winelands is celebrating its pivotal role in putting Pinotage on the map over the past 60 years.
While this proudly South African grape is today enjoying a renaissance in style and popularity, it’s fair to say that South African winemakers were slow to realise the true potential of Pinotage.
Professor Abraham Izak Perold, the first Professor of Viticulture at the University of Stellenbosch, created Pinotage in 1925. He cross-pollinated two classic French grape varieties – Pinot Noir and Hermitage, also known as Cinsaut – to create Pinotage, a grape that has become synonymous with South African vineyards. His cross-pollination only produced four seeds, but he planted and carefully tended these in the garden of his Welgevallen residence, little more than two kilometres from the historic manor house at Lanzerac.
But by the late-1950s Perold’s creation was still unknown to many wine lovers, and you certainly wouldn’t find a bottle of Pinotage on offer in Cape Town’s finest restaurants.
That all changed with the harvest of 1959, when the Stellenbosch Farmers’ Winery cooperative, then owners of the estate, realised the potential of that year’s vintage, and, in 1961, created the world’s first bottled Pinotage, using the Lanzerac label.
Six decades after that landmark vintage, just a few bottles of the 1959 Lanzerac Pinotage remains in the estate’s Vinoteque, closely guarded icons of this remarkable South African grape.
From those humble beginnings, today Pinotage is the third-most-planted red grape in the South African winelands, after Cabernet Sauvignon and Shiraz. However, while plantings of these two cultivars has fallen over the past decade, Pinotage is on the rise and today accounts for 7.3% of South Africa’s total area under vineyard.
That is largely thanks to passionate Pinotage fans like Lategan, who has worked tirelessly to craft award-winning wines that redefine the potential and character of the cultivar.
“In the last decade the approach has been towards a more refined style of Pinotage, more balanced,” says Lategan. “For us at Lanzerac it’s all about finding the sweet spot between freshness, elegance and power.”
For Lategan the journey to crafting memorable Pinotage begins out in the vineyards, where Lanzerac’s Viticulturist, Danie Malherbe, focuses on bush vines and careful canopy management to ensure true balance and phenolic ripeness in the fruit.
“The terroir of the Jonkershoek valley gives Lanzerac Pinotage a real point of difference,” adds Lategan. “Because of the soils and mountain climate the vines have to work a bit harder, which brings structure and higher natural acidity to the wine.”
In the cellar Lategan strives to preserve that unique character of the vineyards, gently guiding the grape from lug-box to barrel to bottle.
That meticulous attention to detail and craftsmanship is evident across the three examples of Pinotage in the Lanzerac portfolio.
The range begins with the approachable Lanzerac Pinotage Rosé, the fruit picked from the vineyards that surround the estate’s Tasting Room and Deli.
The premium Lanzerac Pinotage is an altogether more serious expression of the varietal.
A wine that truly exemplifies the potential of Pinotage is the Lanzerac Pionier Pinotage, flagship of the Heritage Range that honours three centuries of Lanzerac’s history.
Picked from a single Jonkershoek vineyard planted in 1996, Lanzerac’s flagship red wine is also the one that requires the least intervention in the cellar.
Nearly a century after this remarkable South African cultivar was first planted, and precisely sixty years after that iconic harvest of 1959, Perold would surely be proud of how far his creation has come.
For more information on Lanzerac Wine Estate and our acclaimed range of Pinotage wines please visit www.lanzerac.co.za