Negative criticism on the “coffee Pinotage category” is as common as coffee to Kenia. Interestingly enough, the blows usually comes from “traditionalists” making comments on how “this style does not reflect typical Pinotage” and “I would rather have my coffee in the morning out of a cup”. The list goes on and on, and, sorry to say, actually became boring quite quickly.

The truth is: It is the fastest growing category from South Africa. What once was a 12000L tank now has evolved into a category in its own right. What I thought 10 years will cause me my job, now evolved into a wine style that is understood and loved by most consumers simply because it demystifies and clarifies wine completely. Consumers can make the association with roasted coffee beans and chocolate. They feel part of an industry with its own, and sometimes very complex jargon.

But how did the “coffee Pinotage” came about? There are usually two groups of information that is acquired during a research project: Results that can be proofed statistically significant, and results that you label “for further investigation”. I noted coffee aromas occurring as a result of various treatments of Shiraz and Pinotage during my research. But what was intended for Shiraz, was applied on Pinotage in 2001 as a result of the vintage and running out of cellar space. And the cellar smelled “like walking into a coffee shop” the next morning. It was the birth of the “coffee Pinotage” style.

But what is the origin of these components that give wine such an intense bouquet? Loads of research projects have been launched to isolate and identify the components responsible for these coffee aromas, almost similar to the project in Australia where rotundone was identified as the component being responsible for the pepper aromas in wine. Some have said that it is a result of the toasting of the barrels, whilst others mentioned it to be a fermentation artefact. Interestingly enough both schools are correct, as it is a group of components that were isolated and identified from – wait for it – coffee brews. The group of components, referred to as furfuralthiols, is a result of the metabolism of the yeast and the toasting of the barrels. It occurs in both white and red wines, and presents it selves as aromas of “roasted coffee beans”, “mocha” and “chocolate” – aromas all known to please many a consumer.

So, while sensitive traditionalists are eager to criticize the “coffee Pinotage”, the category is acting locally and internationally as a true ambassador of not only Pinotage, but also the South African Wine Category in winning wine consumers and converting beer and whiskey drinkers to wine.

What more do you want?

Bertus Fourie is a winemaker, turned Enology lecturer and creator of the Barista coffee Pinotage.