2015 Longridge Pinotage



Never in my life would I have guessed that I’d sit down and write a “terroir” advertisement about Pinotage.

Yeah, I know I just wrote Pinotage and 90% of you just stopped reading (this is why I kept the grape out of the RE: line).

But think of it this way – we’ve come so far, we’ve shared so many wines together, doesn’t it make you the least bit curious to try this wine, one that I find complex and exciting, from a grape that I personally would never drink?

Good wine is where you find it, and if you’re willing to explore, treasures await.  I think Longridge’s Pinotage is one such treasure:

Let’s reconsider the grape first.  We know it’s a cross of Cinsault and Pinot Noir.  What I didn’t know, but was told recently, is that Pinot Noir is the mother side of that crossing.  I was further told, that “If you treat the mother well, and pay attention to her characteristics and needs as a grape and wine, the result is a wine of elegance, aromatic complexity, black fruit and vitality across the palate. The father will come along for the ride, reinforcing the mother’s best characteristics and showcasing the best of the union.”  If you grow and vinify to the father, the Cinsault, “you can make wines of extraction, alcohol, color, and South African funk – virtually erasing the mother’s characteristics.”  Like so many things in wine, the question becomes one of balance.

Now just a bit of history, leading us closer to today’s wine.  Modern winemaking began in South Africa in 1994 to 1998.  By 1998, the wines were truly being marketed to an international audience beyond Africa.  Like most young bucks, wines were made “to put them on the map.”  The easiest way to do that – go BIG, and they did.

By and large my clientele, and my palate, rejected these wines.  From my understanding via tasting what followed, there was a period of reconsideration and education for the young Afrikaaner vintners.  The young started traveling abroad, taking internships across the worldThey came back equipped with new ideas and new techniques on how to make great wine.  That’s what is happening with this bottle.

Jasper Raats and his wife Sally moved from South Africa to New Zealand and started what would become one of New Zealand’s top-rated Pinot Noir producers.  From there, they moved on to Burgundy, and then California, where Jasper was head winemaker at Vérité.  Coming home to South Africa in 2006, he became the wine-growing consultant to Longridge, quickly converting it to biodynamics and emphasizing, as noted above, the elegant Pinot side of this indigenous variety.  But that doesn’t mean that this wine doesn’t taste like Pinotage, and doesn’t taste like South Africa.  It does, which is why it’s so darn intruging:

You could call it South Africa funk, but I would disagree – the nose melds together an intense black fruit, like a Vosne Romanee or lower Central Otago Pinot with the graphite and minerality of a Graves and the pleasing smoked herb character of a Chianti.  That’s a lot of locations at once, and maybe it makes the wine sounds like a hot mess – but it isn’t.  The wine is so stimulating, it recalls so many mental muscle associations in my brain that it engages all the senses.

Here is a wine and winemaker that demands reevaluation of Pinotage as truly a terroir wine.

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