PICK for the HOLIDAYS: Riebeek Cellars | Pinotage | Swartland | South Africa | 2010 | $10 | 85 pts

Aromas:  bing cherry; cinammon & clove; red bell pepper; touch of mint
Character:  light bodied; fruit-juicy; zingy acids; light tannins; silky mouthfeel; fresh-out-of-the-vat personality
Flavors:  ripe red raspberry; chai with cream; touch of red grapefruit; hint of chocolate
Food Pairing:  serve slightly chilled as an aperitif, and with holiday fare and all the trimmings


It won’t be long before many of you begin compiling your wine lists for the holidays.  The perennial challenge in doing this, of course, is to select wines that are sufficiently versatile to pair with a wide array of appetizers and main dishes on the holiday table; wines that are pleasing to be sipped on their own while watching football games on television; and wines which can be comfortably purchased in volume to satiate many thirsty guests.  Beaujolais Nouveau, a French red wine (from the Gamay grape) bottled fresh out of the fermentation tank just before Thanksgiving, has long been a popular and affordable choice for the holiday table, and Pinot Noir has been increasingly popular in this role, as well.  These are sound choices, but this year you might consider adding something a little different to your list – South African Pinotage.  Pinotage was developed at Stellenbosch University in 1925 by crossing Pinot Noir and Cinsaut (both traditional French varieties) to form a hybrid variety. It’s South Africa’s workhorse red variety, often vinified as a single varietal wine and also used in many South African blended wines.  Here’s a rendition from Riebeek Cellars that’s particularly well suited for the holiday table and which could very well become your next crowd pleaser.  It’s straightforward, light on its feet, and fruit-juicy, with vivid aromas and flavors of red fruit and baking spices and a soothing, creamy texture.  The wine was bottled and released only six months after harvest, so it has a wonderfully quaffable fresh-out-of-the-vat character. It’ll serve you best when slightly chilled.  And at $10 the bottle, it won’t break your holiday budget.

Availability:  In Virginia, Riebeek Cellars wines are imported and distributed by Kysela Pere et Fils, LTD, and folks in Northern Virginia can find this Pinotage at Unwined on Alexandria’s West End.  For more information about Riebeek Cellars and its wines, and where you may find them nationwide, visit them virtually at www.riebeekcellars.com. If you can’t find the Riebeek Cellars Pinotage and would like to try a Pinotage from another producer, ask your trusted wine merchant for a recommendation and taste it before serving to guests.  As ubiquitous as Pinotage may be in South Africa, the quality and character of Pinotage bottlings can vary widely across producers.

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