Black Label Pinotage 2019 – a vivid expression of trying vineyard conditions

2019 Kanonkop Black Label Pinotage a Vivid Expression of Trying Vineyard Conditions

The latest release of Kanonkop Estate’s icon Black Label Pinotage displays remarkable vigour and freshness from one of the most challenging vintages in recent history. Kanonkop’s 2019 vintage was characterised by meagre yields as the vineyards were still struggling to recover from the severe drought the Cape winelands had been experiencing since 2014, but the adage of less is more held firm, leading to a Black Label Pinotage where energy and vitality complement the wine’s characteristic plush elegance.

Made from dryland bush-vines planted in 1953 on this world-famous wine estate on the slopes of the Simonsberg in Stellenbosch, Kanonkop Black Label has become known to be the ultimate expression of Pinotage since its maiden release from the 2006 vintage.

Abrie Beeslaar, Kanonkop’s cellarmaster who has presided over each of the Black Label vintages, says this year’s release is characterised by trying conditions experienced in the old vineyard leading up to the 2019 harvest.

“Although the Cape drought ended in 2018, the vintage of 2019 still saw the vines struggling to reach a state of normality due to the lack of water they had endured since the drought began,” says Beeslaar. “The unirrigated vineyard from which the Black Label is exclusively made was 66 years old at time of harvest and gave us an understandably meagre yield of 2.8 tons per hectare. But what we got, was enormous fruit concentration. This just goes to show how well this old vineyard handles the curve-balls nature has been throwing at it for over six decades, as well as underscoring the non-negotiable suitability of Pinotage planted in Kanonkop terroir.”

Beeslaar says that despite the hot summer days leading up to harvest days, night-temperatures were refreshingly low, allowing the grapes to regain the freshness lost due to the energy-sapping heat of the long summer afternoons.

“Berries were smaller than usual as the vines dedicated their minimal reserves to smaller growing units, resulting in juice of intensity and concentration, yet broad and balanced with sumptuous flavours and a heady aroma,” he says. “During crushing and fermenting in open concrete tanks those aromas caused by the grapes dedicated to the Black Label Pinotage were heady and overpowering. We then already knew this vintage was going to be characterised by a wine with fruit, spice and plushness.

“Tasting the wine on bottling after 18 months in new oak, as per usual, it was immediately noticeable how different the wine is to the 2018 Black Label, which originates from the same vineyards and undergoes the same winemaking regimen,” he says. “While 2018 is plush and almost decadent with its velvet softness, the 2019 release has a lively freshness and a zesty expression of dark fruit. Collectors of Kanonkop Black Label Pinotage who have been buying this wine each year will definitely find that it stands-out due to this vivid expression of berry, forest floor and earthy flavours.”

Kanonkop owner Johann Krige says that demand for the Kanonkop Black Label has outstripped all expectations since the first 2006 vintage.

“Year-by-year the response to the Black Label release grows,” he says. “I think this is not only due to the image of Kanonkop and its reputation for Pinotage, but also as a result of the astounding critical reception the Black Label receives annually from local and international wine experts. One does not set about making a cult wine – it is a status bestowed upon you. After 13 years in the market, however, I can confidently say that Kanonkop Black Label Pinotage has reached cult-status, and judging once again the this year’s release, it is a status the wine deserves.”

Krige says that despite the unique old vineyard planted on Kanonkop’s famous soils of decomposed granite and Hutton, the estate ethos of simple, practical old-school winemaking results in wine quality as well as giving it that extra factor which money cannot buy: heritage and tradition.

“Each year’s Kanonkop Black Label is made to a tried-and-tested method based on simplicity and minimum intervention, says Krige.  “The fermenting juice is manually punched through and removed from the skins after four days, with malolactic fermentation commencing in stainless steel tanks before being completed in new French oak barrels.”

Each wine is individually numbered and labelled with a hologram to ensure authenticity and priced at R2 000 incl. Some 6 470 bottles were made from the 2019 vintage.

The wines will be available from exclusively from the following outlets:

  • The Wade Bales Wine Society, tel. 021-7942151
  • Wine Cellar, tel. 021-448-4105
  • Port2Port, tel 021-422-1872

From the 8 November the wine will be available directly from the Kanonkop Estate.

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