South Africas top 3 Cape Blend wines (from left) are Windmeul winemaker Francois van Niekerk, Absa commercial business Western Cape GM Willie Zastron, KWV winemaker Christiaan and Beyerskloof winemaker Anri Truter.

Durban - Love it or hate it, pinotage is the varietal on which South Africa can hang its red wine hat.

It is our home-grown grape, compliments of the hard work done by Dr Abraham Perold in the 1920s and now, slowly, with thanks to the Pinotage Association and the sound sponsorship of Absa (the Pinotage Top 10 and Perold Cape Blend competitions), it is evolving into a wine that stands both on its own and in pinotage-based blends.

Globally, wine lovers know a Bordeaux blend is a classic full-bodied French wine created from at least two of the cabernet sauvignon, malbec, petit verdot, merlot and cabernet franc grapes. South Africa’s unique selling point is a well-balanced, structured wine style, Cape blend that includes 30-70 percent pinotage in its make-up.

This year marked the second annual Perold Absa Cape Blend Competition, and 42 wines from 33 producers competed for the honours from this inimitable style.

The top three announced in Paarl recently were the Beyerskloof Faith 2009, KWV Perold Tributum 2010 and Windmeul Reserve Cape Blend 2010, with the runners-up being the Grangehurst Nikela 2005 and Lyngrove Platinum Latitude 2011. In each of the blends, pinotage and cabernet sauvignon contributed more than 60 percent, a strong shift from last year’s wines, in which shiraz was the dominant blender.

While these wines may have emerged the top, there are a host of cellars aiming to make a Cape blend their flagship wine. Some are still doing intensive testing to reach the finishing line, but the options now before consumers reflect the long road already walked.

The Lanzerac Le Général 2009 (approximate retail price R200) has recently walked away with accolades from both the Michelangelo International Wine Awards and Veritas, while the Matt Black Red 2009 (R79) has Michelangelo credits.

Jet-setters using British Airways business class between the UK, Africa and India earlier this year also had the privilege of sharing in our pinotage, with the Simonsig Frans Malan Reserve 2007 (R155). It was a wine that garnered gold honours at Veritas, so more than worthy of its place in the sun.

Slowly but surely, Cape blends are emerging as a wines category that can become a serious talking point around any dinner table. - The Mercury

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