Stunning Pinotage from Stellenbosch

From time to time, I blog about non-Italian wines. Usually that happens when I either particularly like or dislike a bottle. Lately, I’ve been drinking quite often South African Pinotage which I began to really start to enjoy after I tried some excellent ones at a South African wine tasting in Munich last year. Spier’s 21 Gables Pinotage is one of those Pinotage that I can’t get enough of.

Stellenbosch is probably Africa’s best known viticulture area and named after a town which is located in the Western Cape region of South Africa about 50 kilometres east of Cape Town. The town lies along the Eerste River and is one of the oldest European settlements in the region. Stellenbosch was originally colonized by Dutch and French settlers in the 17th century who began growing vines after an unsuccessful attempt of oak tree reforestation. The soil within Stellenbosch varies a lot which allows wine makers to grow a variety of different grape varieties with the most-planted one being Cabernet Sauvignon.

Stellenbosch vineyard

Vineyards in Stellenbosch. Photo Credits: Hugo Pretorius License: CC BY-NC-ND 2.0

I’m not sure if it’s a good thing that Cabernet Sauvignon is grown pretty much everywhere. I prefer wine from grapes which represent the territory they are from best but that’s a topic for another post. Stellenbosch is also the region in which Pinotage was born in 1924. The variety is a hybrid between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut and became one of South Africa’s signature grapes. Rarely is Pinotage grown outside of South Africa.

More than 120 wineries call Stellenbosch their home these days. One of them is Spier which is among South Africa’s oldest and largest wineries. The first grapes were being pressed on the farm in 1712. Spier produces a number of wines of different quality levels from mostly international varieties like Cabernet Sauvignon, Merlot, Chardonnay and Sauvignon Blanc.

Spier’s signature line is named 21 Gables after the 21 historic Dutch gables that have been preserved over the centuries and date back to 17th century. The 21 Gables line consists of two white and two red wines.

Spier is not only a winery but also a resort with hotel, restaurant and much more. Take a look at this 2-minute long video if you want to see impressions from Stellenbosch.

Tasting Notes: 2012 Spier 21 Gables Pinotage

2012 Spier 21 Gables Pinotage Stellenbosch21 Gables Pinotage is produced with hand-picked Pinotage grapes. The soil on which the vines are planted on is mostly decomposed granite. The temperature-controlloed  fermentation took place in parts in stainless steel tanks and in open-top French oak barrels. Afterwards, the wine aged for 18 months in French, American and Hungarian oak casks of first and second fill. 14.5% was the label-indicated ABV.

In the glass, the wine had a deep purple color with red hues. The nose was unusual, beautiful, exotic and the aromas were very intense. Lots of coconut, some blueberries, black cherries and hints of leather on the opening. Tobacco, caramelized oranges and cocoa became more present after the wine breathed for a bit. In the mouth, 21 Gables was dry, harmonious and vivid. There were notes of raspberries and blueberries. The wine was full-bodied, perfectly balanced and had mellow tannins.

4.5 / 5 stars      

Parting Words

According to Wine Searcher, the 2012 Spier 21 Gables Pinotage has an average price of €19. The technical sheet which I received from the importer also recommends to consume the wine before 2020. One thing that I find particularly intriguing about the 21 Gables Pinotage is the use of oak from France, America and Hungary. Most oaked wines which I tried in the past aged in one, sometimes in two types of oak.

The wine paired perfectly with beef tenderloin in coffee-black pepper crust and baby spinach.

Have you tried the Spier 21 Gables Pinotage before? Would love to hear your thoughts on it. Cheers!

Correction 23/02/2015: I mistakenly stated that Spier’s website only had vague information about the 21 Gables Pinotage. This is not true because It was my mistake not to find the link to the technical sheet.


12 comments on “Stunning Pinotage from Stellenbosch”

  1. Oliver Reply

    We went to Spier last summer, they have a really tasty restaurant on the farm as well. Love myself some good Pinotage as well…

  2. talkavino Reply

    Glad you liked the wine, Julian, as Pinotage is one of the most polarizing grapes for the wine drinkers – I know a number of people who wound;t touch anything which says “Pinotage”. Interestingly enough, this wine is available through one of the biggest wine retailers in US – TotalWine, and it is listed as non-vintage. I might give it a try out of curiosity…

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Hmm I tried both 2012 and 2011 21 Gables Pinotage and they were definitely vintage wines. It is probably a mistake by TotalWine to list the wine as non-vintage. If you try it then I’d love to hear your thoughts on it.

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      You are not alone because, as Anatoli pointed out, the grape is either hated or loved. But don’t give up on Pinotage because of just one bad experience. Cheers!

  3. Suzanne Reply

    Really so interesting, I love this post Julian. I will admit that I know very little about South African wines, This Pinotage sounds wonderful and so worth trying, I saw Anatoli;s comment that it is readily availaible in the US and I am so happy to hear that, I cannot wait to give this a try.

    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Thank you Suzanne! I don’t have a deep knowledge about wine from South Africa either but this 21 Gables Pinotage was very much to my liking. I hope you will enjoy it was much as I do 🙂 Cheers!

  4. Luana Reply

    Hello Julian! what a nice surprise! I have been introduced to the SA wines thanks to a friend who provided sending me a set of 16 bottles… where some bubbles were also included:) but not your Spier 21 Gables Pinotage. Very curious about the aging process in oak from France, America and Hungary as oak plays an important part in the winemaking process….

    My general opinion about the wines produced in Stellenbosch is they are pretty “sincere”, not at all following the European line; Oftenly very pleasant.
    Cheers from Italy.


    • Julian Rossello Reply

      Hi Luana!
      I never tried sparkling wine from SA – this sounds so intriguing!
      When I attended that South African wine fair some months ago, I was fascinated by the aging process of the 21 Gables Pinotage after tasting it, I simply had to buy a few bottles. It’s a wonderful Pinotage 🙂

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