Abraham and The Heretics Pinotage
Abraham Izak Perold created the Pinotage varietal by crossing Pinot Noir and Cinsault. Infamously described by one winemaker in the Cape as ‘The bastard son of Pinot Noir’, the grape rarely gets a good press – even within a nation that considers it their ‘signature’ variety.
‘Abraham and the Heretics’ is something of a tongue-in-cheek challenge to those non-believers to accept the variety into their vinous lives.
In 1924 Abraham Perold, first Professor of Viticulture and Oenicology at Stellenbosch University, planted four seeds from a crossing of Pinot Noir and Cinsault in the garden of his official residence at Welgevallen. He then appears to have forgotten about them. In 1935, the young (and as yet unnamed) plants were transferred to Elsenburg Agricultural College under the direction of Abraham’s successor, CJ Theron, where they were grafted onto the newly established Richter 99 and Richter 57 rootstocks.
The first wine was made in 1941 – the same year as Abraham Perold died – though its first real recognition came when a wine made from Pinotage at the Bellevue Estate in Stellenbosch became the champion wine at the Cape Wine Show of 1959. This success, and its reputation for easy propagation, prompted a wave of planting during the 1960s.
In the early 1990s, as Apartheid ended and the world’s wine market was opening up, South African winemakers had largely ignored Pinotage in favour of more internationally recognized varieties like Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon. Towards the end of the 20th century, the grape’s fortunes began to turn and today, Pinotage accounts for around 7% of the Cape’s vineyards – in comparison to the most prolific grape variety, Chenin Blanc with 18% of total vineyard plantings. Its versatility ensures that Pinotage can be made into a full range of styles and qualities, from easy-drinking reds and rosés to wines worthy of cellaring.
A vibrant purple colour. It is packed with lively red berry, plum and sweet black cherry fruit aromas and flavours and there’s a hint of spice and smokiness on the finish with well integrated tannins giving a complex depth to the palate.
Pinotage is regarded as the best wine in the world to pair with Mexican dishes like Fajitas or that glorious confection of chicken, chocolate, cumin seeds, smoky ancho chilies, pumpkin and sesame seeds – Mole Poblano.
It is also very good with other flavoursome American regional specialties like Carolina Pulled Pork or smoky Texas B.B.Q beef rib. The wine also works with Moroccan flavours, Malaysian dishes and of course South African cuisine.
About the Producer
Vielliera is a large farm on the edge of the Stellenbosch appellation. For over 30 years the Griers of Villiera have been unlocking the marvels of nature to create the distinctive wines and sparkling wines that bear the family name.
Of the 400ha around half is dedicated to vineyards with the balance set aside as a wildlife reserve. This is the quintessential family business, with cousins Simon and Jeff working in the vines and cellar respectively, whilst Jeff’s sister, Cathy, runs the sales and marketing.
One of the early supporters of ‘green’ viticulture, viticulturist Simon Grier has always been a keen supporter of maintaining environmentally friendly vineyard practices. The farm has not sprayed insecticides for the past thirteen years and a flock of 1000 Peking ducks are responsible for some natural pest control.
The Grier’s are also responsible for running several social upliftment projects off the farm, including a day care centre for educating the 30-odd children, belonging to Villiera’s farm workers, and an after-school club. There is also a commitment to the Pebbles Project, teaching the kids the benefits of environmental awareness.
Villiera are also highly active in this field. There is a strong focus on water conservation, recycling and a greening project, which entails the planting of 1000’s of indigenous trees on the farm. This philosophy has led to a vibrant eco-system on the farm, including huge flocks of guinea fowl and pheasant as well as steenbok, Cape foxes, grey mongooses, porcupines and the threatened blue crane.