Closeup shot of bunches of ripe grapes

Pinotage: The Beginners Guide (2024)

Pinotage is a cross between Cinsault and Pinot Noir grapes. This grape inherits the fruity taste of Cinsaut, and the berry and sweet flavors of Pinot Noir.

It produces a thick wine, rich in sugar, therefore obtaining the necessary sweetness. Some vintages also develop notes of tropical fruits, bananas, and smoky aromas.

What is Pinotage?

This wine is considered a typical New World wine that has high development potential. It is the same for South Africa that Malbec is for Argentina and Shiraz for Australia. Winegrowers bottle them as both cuvées and unmixed. This South African wine pinotage is also ideal for producing rose wine. Pinotage pronunciation is pi·nuh·taazh.

Pinotage grape is an early ripening red grape variety. It appears earthy at a very young age, and the taste is sweet and spicy. They become expensive red wines upon maturing. The wine that smells of isoamyl or amyl acetate (commonly called nail polish remover) is not quality wine.

This grape is cultivated mostly near the Cape of Good Hope in the extreme southwest of South Africa. It is also grown in Franschhoek, Tulbagh, Durbanville, Wellington, Swartland, Stellenbosch and Paarl. In addition to this, there are many other regions where it is cultivated, making it the main grape variety in South Africa.

Pinotage vs. Pinot Noir vs. Cabernet Sauvignon

Pinot Noir is a parent of South African Pinotage, but they are different from each other. Pinotage is a cross-breed of Cinsault and Pinot Noir grapes to make a new and various variety. It turned out to be different from Pinot Noir as Pinotage produces much darker wine with higher tannins. They are vigorous and easy to grow grapes. Pinot Noir is difficult to grow, whereas Pinotage is rigorous and easy to grow.

Cabernet Sauvignon and Pinotage are two of South Africa’s grape varieties. They both are red grapes and have gained a positive reputation internationally. They are also blended by some producers. The blend is characterized by the more rustic leanings of Pinotage meaning and dark-fruit and blackcurrant flavors of Cab Sauv. This blend is generally dark in color, displaying earthy aromas, when young.

Pinotage Characteristics

Since Pinot Noir is the parent of Pinotage South Africa, it will be difficult for you to detect the origins if you are a newbie to the wine world. It can remind you of Shiraz with firm tannins and bold dark fruit in the beginning. Additionally, it has a signature rustic aroma or that of fresh paint. 

The Pinotage characteristics are similar to a lighter-bodied Shiraz and Malbec. It is a light-Medium-Full wine, which is dry. It is high in tannins and low in acid. The finish is medium and sour-sweet. 

Pinotage African grapes grow in varied soil, hot and dry climates. Some of its notable regions are Brazil, California, South Africa, and New Zealand. Best vintage wines are mostly made in South Africa, and only some are found in other regions of the world. Good vintage Pinotage is good for cellaring for events up to 20 years, sometimes. 

Pinotage Taste Profile

Pinotage is a high-tannin, full-bodied, and dry wine that can vary in quality. Low-quality wine often has unpleasant aromas of rubber or nail polish remover. High-quality vintage has an earthy, floral note with juicy flavors of leather, cherry, tobacco, black plum, and raspberry. 

A quality Pinotage taste will have tobacco, red pepper, oak, and licorice. It is relatively low in an acid, balanced wine with a smoky and sweet finish. The older Pinotage vines are incredibly savory, rich, and spicy in favor. The dark berry flavors come to life on the palate and earthiness through its aromas. With oak cask maturation, it can become smoky and spicy. Pinotage ABV is 13–15%.

Pinotage Ageability

Some wines are consumed young, and some are allowed to be aged. Typically, Pinotage is thought to age well. There is a bit of a problem, most red wines as Dick Clark. The ageability of good Pinotage lies between Pinot Noir and Cab Sauv. Many connoisseurs believe that Pinotages aged for a few years exhibit notable and stronger flavors. 

Generally, pinotages are made to age for up to eight years. Other wines are made to be drunk within a year of bottling. While purchasing, you can check with the sommelier which vintages are made to be drunk as soon as they are open, and which should be kept in your cellar. 

Like any other wine, Pinotage brands are not for everyone. Some love it, some find it decent, and some do not like it at all.

Known Regions for Pinotage

South Africa is the primary Pinotage region. Some other wine regions also grow Pinotage. Let us take a look at them in detail:

  • South Africa: In South Africa, over 7% of vineyards produce Pinotage vines. It is mostly grown in Paarl, Constantia, and Stellensboch of the Western Cape and is mostly used to produce varietal wines and Cape blends. In a classic blend, Pinotage is blended with Cabernet Sauvignon or Merlot. The former constitutes around 30-70% of the blend. Although South Africa is a new world region, it often produces wines poised between old and new world styles.
  • United States: This is a scarce grape variety in the new world. The US had dedicated grape vineyard plots of only 52 acres. It is mainly grown in Oregon, Arizona, Virginia, Michigan, and California. 
  • Other Regions: Zimbabwe, New Zealand, Israel, Canada, and Brazil are also known for producing Pinotage.

Popular Blends of Pinotage

Pinotage is used as a blend with a lot of other grape varieties. Some common Pinotage blends are:

Lyngrove Platinum Latitude 2015

It has 45% of Cabernet Sauvignon, 32% of Pinotage, and 23% of Shiraz. This is a unique blend as the quality differs every year depending on the cultivators. The aroma has a hint of cigar box, cedar, Herbs de Provence, and blackberry. It is flavourful, rich, and structured tannins. It has nuances of nutmeg and clove.

Simonsig Frans Malan Cape Blend 2015

This blend is originally from Stellenbosch. It is a blend of Pinotage 67%, Cabernet Sauvignon 29%, and Merlot 4%. This blend is dry and has a dense opaque color. It has a perfume entrance of rich vanilla, plump pods with a dash of cigar box. This trio forms concentrated flavors of blackberry fruit. They leave lingering notes of cedar oaks and sweet plum.

Windmeul Cape Blend Reserve 2015

This is a blend of Pinotage, Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot and Petit Verdot. It is a dry and bold wine having heavy tannins and acid. It has an oaky note of vanilla and cloves. It leaves a fruity taste on the palate.

How to Enjoy Pinotage?

Every wine, in general, comes with some recommendation that makes them taste the best. The same is the case with Pinotage wine. It has some food pairing, serving temperature, and glassware instructions that would bring out the flavors and aromas of the wine in the best way.

Food Pairings

Pinotage wine pairing goes well with bold food and goes well with Curry, Spices, and Smoke. Some foods that enhance the Pinotage profile are:

  • Lasagne: Pinotage makes an amazing mid-week treat with the classic Lasagne. From the different types of Lasagnas, Pinotage pairs well with vincigrassi, a mushroom lasagne which is made with cream and porcini.
  • Smoked Duck: Duck is a rich meat that needs a highly acidic wine to contrast the taste of the dish. A simple dish like mixing leaf salad with potato stack and duck breast will go together amazingly.
  • Pulled Pork: White meat generally pairs well with white wine. The combination of accompaniments, crackling and sauces and the versatility of the red wine works well. The delicate and sweet taste of pork is perfect for savory and aromatic Pinotage.
  • Sushi: No one can predict that Sushi and Pinotage make a great combination. But this red medium-bodied wine is perfect for this Japanese delicacy for your winter meals.
  • Braai: Swap your beers with the classy Pinotage when you have Braai, next time. The coffee notes in the Pinotage make a great pair with dishes that are from marinated lamb to Cajun-spiced fish or Cape Malay kebabs and everything else that is grilled on the flames or even a good old boerie roll.  


Pinotage is one such red wine grape that should be served at a temperature higher than the refrigerator temperature but at the same time not at the room temperature. The ideal temperature of serving Pinotage is 17-18°C (63-64°F). If served at a higher temperature, the wine will taste flat, losing its aromas and flavors. 

You should always serve this wine cool and allow it to sweat in the glass for about 15 minutes. It will be an added benefit if the wine releases the aromas slowly and enhances the joy of drinking. It will also help in identifying its aromas. 


Since Pinotage varietal is a red wine, it is best served in a glass with a bigger bowl. Some stemwares which are perfect for Pinotage are:

  • Riedel Veritas Old World Glass: These glasses enhance the aromas, temper high acidity and showcase the fruit forwardness of wine. They also influence the wine on the palate and nose. It is beautifully balanced and preserves the structure of the wine.
  • Schott Zwiesel Glass: This glass is famous for its versatility. It is made from a proprietary chip and break-resistant crystal and is dishwasher safe. This glass can be used to serve many other wines like Brunello, Burgundy, Lambrusco, Sangiovese, Chardonnay, Viognier, and many more.
  • Luigi Bormioli: These glasses are lightweight, thin, and feel much more expensive than what they cost. You can also use this glass for other wines like Malbec, Cabernet Sauvignon, Malbec, etc.

How is Pinotage Made?

The steps involved in making pinotage are the same as any other red wine, the process includes- harvesting and crushing of the grapes, fermentation, and pressing, maturing, filtering, and bottling. Let us have a look into this in the Pinotage wine-making process in detail. 

  • Harvesting: Pinotage grapes are harvested between summer to early fall after the period of veraison (the initial green color of the grapes has turned to dark red or blue-black) is completed. The grapes are hand-picked or machine-picked from Pinotage Vineyard as bunches and clusters.
  • Crushing: They are then delivered to the winery, where they are sorted, and any unwanted debris, leaves, or raisins are removed. Then they are sent to a crusher where they are squeezed a bit to get the juice flowing. 
  • Fermentation: The skin and seeds combined are called must. Some winemakers allow them to cool for a day or two (cold-soaking), to extract their flavors and colors. Later, commercial yeast is added to begin the fermentation process, while the native yeast that exists in the cellar or is already clinging to the grapes starts the process of fermentation. 
  • Pressing: After fermentation, this must is then transferred to separate the skins and seeds from the wine. The liquid is known as pressed wine.
  • Maturing: Most wines go through this process before being bottled and sold. It is kept here for a few months to a few years in big tanks. Vats and oak barrels are preferred for traditional-style, high-quality wines. 
  • Filtering and Bottling: Once the wine is matured, many winemakers filter it to remove the extra sediment. A final adjustment of sulfur dioxide is made before bottling. The oxygen is then removed from the empty bottles before they are filled with wine. 

History of Pinotage

In 1925, a South African scientist named Abraham Izak Perold, the first viticulture professor of the Stellenbosch University created Pinotage history. He creates a hybrid of Cinsault and pinot noir grapes, locally known as “hermitage.” It was given the wine pinotage name, the latter half of its name. 

When he joined the KWV after two years of the university, a winemaking cooperative, he left behind the experimental seeds in his garden. A young lecturer brought them to the Elsenburg Agricultural College, where they progressed the work on the new cultivar.

The Pinotage association was then formed in 1995 with an effort to legalize South Africa’s Flagship red varietal winemaking on the world stage.

Alternatives for Pinotage

If you have already been drinking Pinotage for over some time and you want to try something similar. Or if you are not looking for the exact taste of Pinotage descriptors, but something similar. Then you can try these alternatives to Pinotage. Next time, try any of the following three varieties of wines instead of a glass of pinotage.


The problem with drinking the same wine for a long time is that selecting a new favorite wine becomes difficult. Fortunately, there are some great alternatives to Pinotage that taste similar. Many grapes who love to drink Pinotage try to find more similar grapes that they can try and want to try many other options to make a choice.


If you loved Pinotage then you will love Malbec as well. It is originally a blend of red grapes to make other blends. It is grown in other regions like New Zealand, South Africa, Australia, and Chile. It has dominant flavors of blackberry, plum, and cherry.


Camren makes a great alternative to Pinotage. Merlot is soft and low key which tastes similar to green pepper and has a sharp spiciness. The grapes were named after a crimson color and are dark. It is a medium body wine having earthy, smoky, and spicy aromas.


What is pinotage wine?

Pinotage is a fruity, powerful, and full red wine. It has light to medium tannins, intense flavors and is quite full-bodied. It has low acidity making the wine easy to drink.

What does a Pinotage taste like?

Pinotage flavor leans towards black currant, plum, and blackberry. It is darkly flavored and scented. It has an unmistakable smokiness that presents itself on both palate and the nose.

Is Pinotage the same as Pinot Noir?

Pinot Noir is the parent grape variety of Pinotage. Though they belong to the same variety, the Pinotage flavor profile is the same as Pinot Noir.

Is Pinotage a good wine?

Pinotage is one of its kind-red wines that are fruit-driven, earthy, and have a fruity taste. The Pinotage alcohol content is slightly higher than other wines. It is capable of making very tasty wine.

What is Pinotage wine similar to?

Pinotage is similar to a lot of wine. It makes a great alternative to wines like Carmenere, Malbec, and Syrah.

Does Pinotage age well? 

In general, certain Pinotages were made to age and can sit for up to eight years. They were made to be drunk within a year of bottling.

What color is PInotage? 

A typical Pinotage color is red, it is dense and bold in flavor with notes of plum sauce, tobacco, blackberry, tar, and licorice.

What does Pinotage pair with?

Pinotage makes an amazing pair with food like lasagne, smoked duck, pulled pork, sushi, braai amongst others.

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