Pinotage is a South African signature wine variety. Like many things in this country, it can be a bit daunting when first encountered. However, with patience and understanding it is possible to master this mysterious, idiosyncratic variety. Writer’s Block is a single vineyard Pinotage bursting with intense, unique wild berry characters and unctuous, velvety drinkability.
The standard story goes that Pinotage is a 1925 South African crossing of what was recorded as Pinot Noir and Cinsault. Although there is some dispute about exactly when the varieties were cross-pollinated we are pretty sure the varieties are correct. In those days Cinsault was called Hermitage, hence we have the name Pinotage.
Our Writer’s Block Pinotage is crafted from a single vineyard block high in the Waaihoek Mountains, above the sweeping Breedekloof valley, an hour and a half’s drive north of Cape Town.
We believe we’ve found an exceptional vineyard block for Writer’s Block. Everything about this site is special: the combination of soil, slope, climate, aspect and grape variety works brilliantly.
The grower, Anton Roos is also an important catalyst in this alchemy of winecrafting excellence.
Anton would not look out of place in a Springbok scrum; with huge hands and thighs as thick of oak trees. Like many South African farmers, Anton loves to hunt. Unlike most, he prefers stalking his prey for hours on foot and then taking them down with a bow and arrow. His latest quest is a buffalo trophy. The iconic big game hunter, Selous, once remarked: “The majestic buffalo is the only animal that looks at you as though you owe it money.”
The buffalo is extremely dangerous. In fact, most bushmasters will tell you they would much rather face down an aggressive male lion than and buffalo. This should put Anton into perspective for you. And this is the sort of character you need to grow world beating Pinotage.
Single block or single vineyard designate wine is particularly special in that it creates an absolute expression of that part of the land for that particular vintage; so the soil, slope, aspect altitude and climate all meld together to express a special confluence of time and place. We’ve been using this block since 2003. This is the highest vineyard in the area, planted in ancient, decomposed grantic soil, right up against the emphatic slopes of the Waaihoek.
Philosophically Pinotage is like a racehorse - able to smell fear on a winemaker at twenty paces. It’s a tricky variety (its mom is Pinot Noir after all) and some winemakers hate it because no matter what they do, it ends up tasting like rusty nails and burnt rubber. But when you get it right, it’s one of the most sublime wines in the world. The challenge is worth it. We’re very lucky to have so much experience with Pinotage, and to be able to make world-class wines from our own grape variety. It is definitely one of the defining grape varieties of Flagstone.
We hand-pick the concentrated bunches of this block over a few days, rather than weeks, because of the relative uniformity of the soil. After caring for the vines and keeping the fruit healthy through ripening, our major challenge is protecting against bird attacks and baboons off the mountains, because we push the fruit to hang way past when other Pinotage in the area is picked. The small, black berries taste so delicious we often eat them like table grapes. After a soft destemming and sorting process, the grapes are fermented in our Flagstone-designed open top fermentors and the wine is aged in barrel for 18 to 24 months before bottling.
What’s in a Name?
When we first produced Writer's Block we were incredibly proud of the fact that it was a single vineyard wine. Lamentably regulations prevented us from delineating a single vineyard designate on our bottles, so we began working through the official channels to change the laws and regulations regarding SAWIS’s (South African Wine Industry Information and Standards) traceability and single vineyard delineate regulations. I knew this would take a few years to put into place, so in the interim we become a little creative with the name of our Pinotage, and managed to get the word “block” accepted on the label – the first time this word appeared on a South African label.
We could therefore talk about our single block wine in our marketing, even though we couldn't say exactly that on the label initially.
The regulations have now changed in South Africa, and I believe we are the only country that actually has practically enforceable, strict rules regarding single vineyard designations.
We obviously also love stories and writing at Flagstone, and when inspiration is running low, a few glasses of Writer’s Block unblocks the problem and the words flow as easily as the wine.
Deep, incredibly dark purple colour, with lively bright purple edges. Intense, concentrated aromas of wild blueberry, mulberry and ripe cherry supported by smoky, spicy dark chocolate undertones. On the palate the wine is ripe and generous with a core of wild black berry, preserved plum and youngberry. These fruit characteristics are supported by subtle toasty oak, hints of white truffle, dark chocolate and thyme. A pure expression of this single vineyard.
Love For Writer’s Block
- 4.5 Stars 2013 John Platter Wine Guide
- Silver 2013 Catavinum World Wine & Spirits Competition
- Gold 2012 International Wine Challenge Catavinum
- Commended 2012 IWC
- Gold 2012 Veritas
- Diamond 2012 Winemakers Choice Awards
- Bronze 2011 Decanter Awards
- 4 1/2 Stars 2011 John Platter Wine Guide
- Grand D’or 2011 Michelangelo International Wine Awards
- Gold 2011 Mundus Vini International Wine Awards
- Double Gold 2011 Veritas
- Double Gold 2011 Michelangelo International Wine Awards
- Bronze 2010 Veritas
- Top 10 2010 ABSA Top 10 Pinotage Competition
- Silver 2010 IWSC
- Bronze 2010 Decanter Awards
- Bronze 2010 Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show
- Silver 2010 IWC
- Top 10 2009 ABSA Top 10 Pinotage Competition
- Gold 2009 Michelangelo International Wine Awards
- Silver 2009 Old Mutual Trophy Wine Show
- Top 50 2009 Matthew Dukes Top 50
- Silver Best in Class 2008 IWSC
- Silver Best in Class 2008 IWSC
- Silver 2006 Michelangelo International Wine Awards
- Bronze 2006 Korea Wine Challenge
- 100% Pinotage
Pinotage is an incredible wine, because it is versatile enough to pair across a huge spectrum of dishes from oysters to game to spicy Middle Eastern cuisine. In fact, like Dragon Tree, it loves spices and even chilies.
It is gorgeous with slow-cooked duck drizzled with a pomegranate and cardamom gravy and served with potatoes roasted in duck dripping as well as a green salad of bitter leaves.
It’s also an absolute winner with a rare fillet of kudu and parsnip mash.
You can drink Writer’s Block through a straw at a very smoky and loud Moscow night club, as I have done, but you normally have to have a few vodkas under the belt. This is really the sort of intense wine experience which demands a quiet moment and space to become properly immersed in the wow factor this wine has in abundance. It’s a great wine to take on a hike up Lion’s Head in Cape Town in autumn and watch the sun slide into the cold, purple Atlantic.
- Alcohol 14.47%
- Residual Sugar 3.1 g/l
- Total Acid 5.6 g/l
- pH 3.51