My goal was to taste and blog about a Pinotage that I have not yet tried. Alas, a long week and not enough time to go searching led me to my cellar where my old Pinotage standby lives… Southern Right from Walker Bay. But it’s a good wine to right about because it was the Pinotage that got me back into trying Pinotage and the winery has a story behind it. And we love a wine with a story.
The story behind Southern Right is a good one. Founded by Hamilton-Russell, a winery known for their outstanding Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the premise for Southern Right Cellars was to create stellar Pinotage – not the burnt rubber, bubble gum Pinotage so maligned by wine lovers, but a wine that expressed the true essence of Pinotage and South Africa. This second label for Hamilton-Russell was started by Anthony Hamilton-Russell in 1994 when he took over the winery from his father.
Both Hamilton-Russell and Southern Right vineyards are planted just a few miles from the Atlantic Ocean in the Walker Bay appellation. The home of Southern Right Cellars is right outside of Hermanus, a town where people come from all over to watch the whales. The name Southern Right actually comes from a baleen whale of the same name, hence the label. The other cool thing about Southern Right Cellars is that with each sale of Southern Right wines, they make a contribution to Southern Right Whale conservation in the Walker Bay.
So that’s the company. How about the wine? I actually got to visit this property in South Africa when I was there on my honeymoon in 2008. It was stunning and the wines were excellent (don’t get me going on how much I love Hamilton Russell Chardonnay). The Pinotage stuck out in my mind because it was really quite good – and while I’ve never hated Pinotage, I never quite loved it either. This one made me want to give the grape another chance. I tasted some other Pinotage on this trip that stood out as well. Spice Route Pinotage was a huge winner in my book, giving tons of fruit forward deliciousness, with very subtle smoke undertones. I believe “Christmas” was how I described the nose.
I’ve had it since that trip and always enjoyed it. So I opened another bottle for this tasting. I have to say, at first I was disappointed. Something was missing – the wine seemed thin and the smoky nose was leaning towards that burnt rubber aroma.
So I waited and let it open up in my glass for a while, and when I returned, the Pinotage I remember was back. Whew…
Color: Deep ruby purple, with a light ruby/purple rim
Nose: Smoky! As so many South African wines are, especially Pinotage. Smoke and roasted meat was definitely prominent, but also wild berry and currant.
Taste: That South African smokiness comes through on the palate as well, with ripe berry fruits and a touch of spice. Tannins are in check and the acidity is excellent here, making this a perfect food wine.