Western Cape Fat Man Pinotage

G’day guys. My last YouTube clip I adapted into my blog I felt was somewhat under performed, since it was made with essentially all of the work circulated round the embedded clip and as such, only comprised of a few hundred word summary. This article, in comparison, actually wound up having the highest word count of all of my blogs. So stick that in your pipe and smoke it.


{Those of you unenthused about vlogs, can skip directly to the review of the Fat Man Pinotage by moving the slider to 15:36}

I’m here revisiting an article that never technically happened. When I decided to try all the wines and whiskies I could get my hands on, (long before this site had even been the scarcest flirtation of an idea) I went out of my way to deliberately seek out the seemingly bizarre and abnormal. An idea that lead me to wines from places such as Israel, and evidently at this point, South Africa. The idea of wine pressed from grapes, that in my imagination was planted in some backcountry area of Africa were a farmer would chase off Springbok and Kudu from eating the grapes. But these wines, as I learnt, were not so much an oddity as they were a pedigree. Especially when one takes into consideration the hurdles encountered by the trade solely. South African wine is an exotic and delectable drink, especially their key bragging right – their own Pinotage. Well, I’m told. As I write this now I still have yet to try it. Something I tried and settled for late last year, ultimately coming out of the search with a bottle of Kadette by Kanonkop. A compromise, a blended wine featuring a key percentage of Pinotage. Not pure or standalone, but I refused to look at the glass half empty and said I had failed to acquire it entirely. But eventually curiosity got the better of me, and I came to revisit the Pinotage article.
A strange wine, it may be. But what is strange, is that South African wine, seemingly has dried up and disappeared from the shelves of Dan Murphy’s entirely.
Pinotage, in it’s existence at all very nearly never came to exist on our shelves in the first place. I’ll save you the bother of trawling through a previous article to see my point, and reiterate it here (any previous readers, South African citizens or otherwise wine experts who know this you can skip the next two paragraph). Pinotage was birthed as a method of creating a species of wine grape adaptable to the unforgiving African climate. Their method – to use the good old horticultural innovative practice of grafting two separate species of grape. One, with a hardy and enduring reputation known to tolerate harsh weather. The second, a delicious and fruity widely-loved wine grape that the South Africans drinkers wanted, but that could not tolerate the heat. The practice of grafting grape vines, not unfamiliar to the world of wine – In the mid-nineteenth century, botanists of the vineyards of Cognac, the area responsible for that magical elixir of a brandy, arrived in France with American grapevines in tow to study. Unwittingly bringing with them near-microscopic parasitic vine ravaging insects, the wine-equivalent of the bubonic plague, the phylloxera insects. The phylloxera exploded in numbers and ravaged the wine industry of Cognac. Botanists needed return to America to find an American vine that was tolerant of the pests. And eventually after an expedition to the United States where the vine was taken from, a vine was found, in Texas of all places, to evict the pests. And so the American vine roots were grafted to the French Vinifera vines. Thereby protecting the nature and taste qualities of the original affected French vine.
Grafting, the practice of attaching a root system of a plant to the shoot system of another. A popular method used is to cut the top off a healthy, viable host root plant and cut a slit down the center, fit the young cut shoot of the scion plant in said slit, and seal the open graft to stop moisture escaping. So in nineteen-twenty-five Abraham Izak Perold, the first professor of viticulture of Stellenbosch University, created the Pinotage. By fusing the rootstock of Cinsault (or Hermitage), and Pinot Noir. A grafting he succeeded at, but after his career changed paths, his attention was completely occupied and his entire garden became neglected and overgrown. Forgetting about his invention. Later instructing university employees to clean out his garden while he worked. Pinotage was only saved from being disposed of entirely by the men sent to tidy up when a colleague of Professor Perold’s, Charlie Niehaus who knew of it’s existence happened to walk by and saved it. Kanonkop, a famed South African label was the first to commercially sell Pinotage wine in nineteen-forty-one.

While the tale of Pinotage seems just as good, if not better than the rest of the wine on our shelves. I encountered a speed bump last year buying it. My quick decision to feature this newly discovered wine, following a agreeance I struck with my friend, Graham Cash – owner of my favored hunting store Sioux Archery to photograph a bottle of Glenfiddich in his store with the backdrop of one his many trophy Red Deer stags. In addition to taking a photo of a bottle of South African wine with the backdrop of his trophy Red Hartebeest he had taken in South Africa, on the same day quickly began to look like a backfire. No sooner had I learnt of the existence of Pinotage, then it seemed to disappear from the shelves of Dan Murphy’s. Searching high and low for it with nothing to show for it. I even went to the trouble of pursuing acquisition of this through the phone, after a few minutes of speaking with an automated voice before finally talking to an actual employee, I learnt the wells had well and truly dried up. With a deadline to meet, I learnt of the Kadette blend, adapted and overcame. You would expect, Dan Murphy’s, Australia’s leading liquor store, would be quick to restock it’s shelves with these bottles. But strangely, none have been. And it isn’t just one label, the entirety of Pinotage is almost completely absent. And as far as I was aware, the days of boycotting all things South African went out with the White Africa Policy. If you haven’t heard of that already, I refuse to play any part in telling you, Google it, there’s some doom and gloom for you. While you could foreseeably, bypass the liquor stores entirely and order directly from labels, this really isn’t worth doing in terms of dollars and cents unless you want an entire case, otherwise it’s not really worthwhile to order one little seven hundred milliliter bottle across two continents. I can’t imagine what has created this shortage of South African wine, but I hope real Pinotags returns soon. Since some of us don’t know what we’re missing.
When I say real…this is the one existent Pinotage I had managed to find. Something the label, Old Road Wine Company calls Fat Man Pinotage. Something that by it’s choice of title, struck me as a sort of novelty liquor. But the blurb on the website – “This captivating Pinotage has layers of succulent red fruit, oak spice and supple tannins making a memorable impression. A clean smooth medium bodied wine that is refreshing with a dry finish” gave me the impression it seeks to be taken seriously despite it’s humorous choice in name. Unusual, but once I finally had gotten a hold of it, I start to think Fat Man is in fact the line of wine. Fat man, being the actual label of the wine in actuality, Old Road Wine Company being the owner of Fat Man. As the Suntory Corporation is the owner of Maker’s Mark, The Famous Grouse, and Canadian Club. So what I have is simply a wine from a label with an amusing name. This simple confusion in the computerised error in categorization, perhaps the only reason it continues to be present after all others are bought out.

And so I move to open the bottle. Upon opening, the nose is the spitting image of a Cabernet Sauvignon. The nose becames fresh, fruity and light. And aftertones of fresh, crusty bread and blackberry. Oxidized, the nose becomes organic and crispy. Thin and fair. The taste, at first glance is reminiscent of a Pinot Noir, light-bodied and fruity. But also present, are dark, plum, blackberry, earthy, and even smoky and charcoal properties. Dark, complex, and desirable. If you’re a Marvel fan, if Gamora were Pinot Noir, then Pinotage is Nebula.

To summarise: After a long search, I finally secure a bottle of the aforementioned African vin for myself. And it is exactly as sophisticated and diverse as praised. My only regret, as I drink from the final glass of the bottle, is I didn’t think at the time to secure a package in advanced in the advent that this wine does indeed face a prolonged drought. Cheers, and those of you enjoy/enjoyed the YouTube clip of this blog, remember to subscribe. And if you want to be notified by email the second these blog go live.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.