So here we are. February 2010, and I’m wondering if anyone has been successful in sticking to their New Year resolutions? This year no amount of Christmas weight gain or back-to-work blues could dampen my spirits as my self-inflicted, life improving declarations were set to be a sure-fire success. This January the only abstinence I demonstrated was to stop running – giving my knees a glimmer of hope that they’ll carry me past my looming 30th – and secondly, because I enjoy it, I started smoking again.
All in all, January was a breeze.
Rather than detox and diet I set myself a few more achievable food and drink challenges, which was mainly to mix things up and be more adventurous; to stop playing it safe and get out of the repetitive gastronomic rut I’ve been in for the past year. On the food front I’m no longer allowed to use autopilot in supermarkets, forcing me to learn some new recipes in the kitchen. More importantly, I’ve stopped buying wines I know I like in order to get to grips with varieties and styles I normally avoid. Chilean Chardonnays, stir frys, lasagne and Spanish reds have all been out-of-bounds and so far this year I’ve ruined my flatmate’s wok, trying to cook a chorizo frittata, and I’ve filled my wine rack with Pinotage. Not a bad start.
Pinotage is a funny sort of wine. When Jesus turned water into wine I doubt very much that it was Pinotage. This grape is derived from crossing Pinot Noir and Cinsault, first done in 1925. Pinotage is to South Africa what Malbec is to Argentina, although not as popular. It appears on our shelves in a number of styles, ranging from light, inexpensive quaffing wine to premium priced, full-bodied, oak-aged bottles that require laying down for the tannins to soften. At it’s best it will offer dense brambly fruits and slight coffee hints. The wine also has a rustic, unpolished savoury quality that I’ve always found difficult to appreciate. It is what I would describe as a ‘Marmite wine’: you’ll either love it or you’ll hate it.
I started off at the cheaper end of the Pinotage spectrum. Zalze Pinotage 2008 is a relatively new addition to our range appearing on Majestic shelves just last year. Initially the wine’s body surprised me. It was by no means a blockbuster, but at £4.99 per bottle* it was reasonably weighty. The wine offered that rustic/savoury quality that characterises Pinotage but it dominated the red brambly fruit. After an hour-ish, the dominating rusticity seemed to dwindle and allow the fruit to shine through a little more. By the second glass I was nearly enjoying it. Not a bad start considering I don’t like Marmite.
For my second Pinotage I opted for the Beyerskloof Reserve 2007, at £6.99*. They do a slightly cheaper version if you prefer your wines a little lighter but I tackled its weightier big brother. The fruit here shifts to darker berries and the hints of coffee I mentioned start to creep in. The ever-present savoury character is backed up with a much greater depth of fruit. I tried this without food but it would have stood up well to a sausage casserole from my newly expanded culinary repertoire.
Kanonkop Pinotage 2007 at 14.99*, last and by no means least, is crammed with character. Dark berry fruits, ripe plums, bitter cocoa as well as cinnamon and clove spices from its time spent maturing in French oak. I have to say that, despite not being the world’s biggest fan of Pinotage, I really did enjoy this wine. If you’re a fan of the unpolished, rusticity of wines like Chateau Musar or savoury Cabernet Sauvignon dominated Bordeaux then this top end Pinoatge will offer you something similar that you can really get your teeth into.
So, now it’s February and you’ve fallen off the wagon, go and pick up a few bottles of wine you’ve never tried before. Put the ‘old favourites’ back on the shelf and ask the staff for their recommendations on something exciting and unusual.
Try some new styles of wine.
My resolution to be more experimental with my food and drink has gone much better than my others, despite setting the bar laughably low. I’d like to boast but my abstinence from jogging didn’t last too long. The Christmas port and Stilton sat proud around my midriff and I just had to run it off. I tried swimming in an attempt to spare my knees but my ipod didn’t last one length.
The rest of the year will see me continue my battle with nicotine. It is, by far, one of the stupidest things I do…second only to jogging. But standing outside pubs and rolling my own seems to have taken the enjoyment out of smoking in the snowstorms of late, so I’ve quit. Again. But Pinotage is set to become a more frequent visitor to my wine rack this year.
*All prices apply when you buy any 2 South African wines as part of a mixed case until 26th April 2010 and whilst stocks last.