Pinotage: An interesting variety but what do you eat with it?

At dinner parties around the world, wine lovers are uncorking Pinotage with aplomb; swirling and sniffing; and pairing it with everything from well-hung beef to game birds.  In short, it’s no longer the pour pshawed in polite company.

As Pinotage fans out into a range of seriously compelling styles, swinging from rugged and rustic reds fit for fire-roasted feasts to easier-drinking styles that are about as accessible as a harlot’s boudoir, gastronomes are taking interest.  The big question is, what foods go best with Pinotage?

So I polled my peers—other wine and food folk—for their thoughts on the matter.  Here’s what they said:

James Suckling

Wine critic, held position of Senior Editor and European Bureau Chief of Wine Spectator for about 30 years

“Pinotage is a tricky one. Sometimes I can’t get around the rubbery, tire component in the nose. I like the Rhone-like nuances to it though. So I think anything grilled, or even Cajun, would be amazing with an excellent Pinotage. In fact, I am going to try some tongue tacos with one over the holidays!” He was referring to the Christmas holidays when this story was being written.

James’ recommendation: Anything grilled, Cajun, and maybe tongue tacos

0David Lawrason

A leading Canadian authority on wine who has written on wine for more than 20 years.  Currently wine columnist for Toronto Life

“Pinotage huh!  To me pure Pinotage (without heavy oak) is like tart red fruit–pomegranate, cran-strawberry.  Like Pinot Noir but wilder.  I would match it to rich game fowl–quail, squab, emu, ostrich, pheasant or duck.  Notice I have resisted the temptation to say ‘springbok’ which is apparently widely available on South African menus.” By the way, a springbok is a brown and white gazelle that can run up to 90 km/hr, leap 3.5 m, and long jump up to 15 m.  Good luck catching one.

David’s picks: Rich game fowl–quail, squab, emu, ostrich, pheasant, duck, or.. ahem, springbok.

Beppi Crosariol

Wine columnist for The Globe and Mail for more than 10 years and former food columnist there

“Though it’s a cross of Pinot [Noir] and Cinsault, I find it’s more rugged than either, not entirely French in character but something uniquely South African.

I think it tends to stand up well to hearty meats, especially beef or game stews (suspect you agree), including ones with aromatic spicing. I think chili, which can be fatal to most other reds, is a suitable match if you want to steer clear of belly-busting beer.  Interestingly, some people, including me, melt a bit of dark chocolate into their chili as a ‘secret ingredient.’   Some of the new-style, oak-heavy Pinotages, like ‘Café Culture’ and “Mooiplaas The Coffee Bean Pinotage,’ can taste strongly of chocolate or cocoa. So, I guess there’s a culinary precedent.  I think there’s one called ‘Coffee Chocolate Pinotage.’

And spicy Buffalo-style chicken wings, supposedly a red-wine no-fly zone, can work. One reason I think it does justice to wings is that the varietal sometimes displays a jab of acidity that suggests acetone. Naysayers have criticized the grape for it, but in moderation it can be attractive, like a nice, subtle raspberry vinegar but still a wine with guts and body. Buffalo wings match Pinotage in that tangy, nose-tickling department. So, I suppose you could say the wings do justice to the wine as much as vice versa.  In this case, I’d chill the wine slightly, as you might a Beaujolais.”

Beppi’s selection: Hearty meats, beef or game stews, chili, spicy Buffalo-style chicken wings

Tony Aspler

Wine critic, was wine columnist for The Toronto Star for 21 years and has authored 16 books on wine and food

“With Pinotage, I always get that smoky tarry taste.  It’s hard to match.  I would go with red meat with spicy marinated barbecue flavours.  Chipotle works well.”

Tony’s pairing: Marinated, chipotle-spiced and barbecued red meat

The jury has spoken. Now you be the judge.