Alvi’s Favourite Wines: Pinotage

Learn more about Alvi's Drift head winemaker Alvi van der Merwe's favourite wines and why he's so fond of them. First up, Pinotage.

Alvi’s Favourite Wines: Pinotage

At Alvi’s Drift, we try our best not to have favourites when it comes to our wines. In the words of our head winemaker, Alvi van der Merwe: “It’s like having to choose a favourite child – an impossible task.” However, we do know that both the Pinotage and Chenin Blanc varietals hold a special place in Alvi’s heart.

This prompted us to ask him to share more about the Alvi’s Drift wines crafted from these cultivars and why he has such a fondness for them. Let’s start by taking a closer look at South Africa’s very own varietal, the delectably fruity and highly unique Pinotage.


“I believe Pinotage has a great future. I really feel that this varietal is in a class of its own. Its fruit is just so brilliant” - Alvi van der Merwe



Alvi’s Drift’s multi-award-winning Verreaux Pinotage is your winery’s flagship wine. How did it come that you selected a Pinotage to be your top wine?

It’s an interesting story. I made my first red wine (then called Cape Fusion) in 2005 and was fortunate enough to win a Double Gold Veritas Wine Award for it. Today this Cape blend (Pinotage, Shiraz and Cabernet Sauvignon) goes by the name of Drift Fusion and is part of our Reserve range.

When we first created this blend, some of the Pinotage barrels turned out to be so outstanding that I thought, “Wow, I’m doing this wine a disservice by not bottling it. So that’s how the Verreaux Pinotage came to be our top wine.

Our Verreaux Pinotage has proven to be a perennial favourite in local and international sommeliers' competitions too, having been selected as one of the “Top 7 South African wines to watch out of South Africa” by one of China’s few Wine Masters. This remarkable wine has featured consistently in the Top 100 wines of South Africa, picking up two 95+ points awards in international wine and spirits competitions.

This is not an inexpensive wine to produce, and it usually sells out fast. Our wine club members interested in sampling this wine should keep an eye on their inboxes, as we will be selling individual bottles of our Verreaux Pinotage as an exclusive, members-only offer from time to time.


Pinotage is a uniquely South African cultivar. Was there a measure of patriotism in your decision to make this your flagship wine?

Not consciously. Winemaking is all about flavour and the preservation of fruit. You cannot make winemaking decisions based on anything else. It’s simply about quality. You have to compete with the best of what’s out there, and at the time, I felt that this Pinotage was the best wine that we could produce.


Tell us a bit more about the production process of this remarkable wine

It starts in the vineyards. First, we identify the very best Pinotage blocks, and then the very best grape bunches are hand selected and picked in the cool, early morning hours. Then we inspect the crates of grapes yet again. It all comes down to perfect fruit and optimal ripeness, and the colour of the grapes is usually a good indicator of both.

We do ferment the grapes in the kuipe, the open-top fermentation tanks constructed by my grandfather, Oupa Alvi almost a century ago. But before that, we cold soak these Pinotage grapes for 48 hours. The reason why we select to open ferment is that we like to apply the punch-down (pigeage) method to these grapes. Doing so just gives us more control over the fermentation process.


Both your Signature range Pinotage and Pinotage Rosé wines are very popular worldwide. Can you tell us more about these and your winery’s other Pinotage wines?

Let’s start with the Signature Pinotage Rosé. It's now the second time that this wine has been crowned among the Top 10 Pinotage Rosés by the Pinotage Association of South Africa, so we are indeed very proud of this fun-yet-sophisticated wine. It’s just perfect for daytime enjoyment during the bright and sunny South African summer.

Regarding our tank-fermented Signature Pinotage, again, it simply comes down to the optimal ripeness of the grapes – and we really invest a lot of time in treating and optimising our vineyards as well. We also believe in being very gentle in the winemaking process to ensure that we bring forth the fresh fruit character of the wine and minimise any expression of non-primary fruit characters. All these factors contribute to producing great wines, and our Pinotage wines have always been excellent sellers for our winery.

Then there is our 221 Pinotage. This beautiful, intense black-cherry-coloured wine offers all the inviting, forthcoming aromas true to this classic South African variety. Delicious served with most red meats, rich pâtés and hard cheeses, it is a blend of barrel fermented (30%) and tank-fermented Pinotage.

This new addition to our 221 range is proving very popular with chefs and restaurateurs and, of course, home cooks and other food-and-wine enthusiasts, as well as caterers and private chefs.


Why did you choose to name your flagship wine Verreaux Pinotage – was it after the Verreaux’s eagle?

There are a lot of dassies (rock hyrax) in the mountains surrounding our farm, and they are the main food source for the Verreaux’s eagles around here. You don’t see these enormous birds that often from our vineyards, but you do see them up in the mountains.


When we’re at our mountain house, there’s just complete silence and nothing happening all around. Then suddenly, you see this shadow coming across. As you look up, there’s this enormous bird soaring overhead. It's really quite special. We thought it would be appropriate to name our “highest flyer” wine after this magnificent, high-soaring bird.


Shop Online for Top Quality Pinotage Wines from Alvi’s Drift

To browse and taste our variety of Pinotage wines, pop over to the Alvi’s Drift online shop.

For members-only exclusive offers, promotions and invitations to special events, join the Alvi's Drift Wine Club.

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