“Just two spoons for me, thanks. No milk.”
We wine lovers can be a strange lot. We often say we’re looking for something new – something different. Then when something really new and different comes along we complain that’s it’s “not really in the classical Bordeaux style,” or “doesn’t have that delicious Chablis character.”
We don’t actually seem to know what we want.
The purists mutter darkly about the new style of “coffee character” Pinotage wines, saying they expect to taste grapes, not coffee, when they drink a wine.
There’s actually no coffee added to the wines. The flavour comes from the use of toasted oak staves and selected strains of yeast, both perfectly legitimate in winemaking. It’s a style that was pioneered by Bertus Fourie during his time at Diemersfontein, where they still produce their espresso-style Pinotage, that sells very well.
The interesting thing is that, when the wines are tasted blind in a line-up of Pinotages, they almost always score well. Maybe coffee and grape are two flavours that harmonize naturally.
The notes on the back label of the KWV’s blatantly coffee-style Pinotage, Café Culture, say the Pinotage grapes have been “persuaded to show an often hidden mocha flavour. Nothing is added and nothing is taken away.”
In other words, they say the coffee character was there all the time. All they had to do was persuade it to emerge.
So let’s try to be open-minded about our wines. Maybe there are all kinds of hidden flavours out there, just waiting to be unveiled. Maybe there’s biltong flavour lurking deep under the surface of Cabernet Sauvignon’s blackberries. (That could be a winner with Karoo drinklers!) Who knows what mysteries may lurk under the grassiness of Sauvignon Blanc? Apple crumble?
The wine industry’s going through a rough time right now, (which industry isn’t?) and if coffee-character Pinotages introduce new fans to the market, I reckon that’s just great.