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Barkan Pinotage: A Vertical Tasting (K)

by Daniel Rogov » Mon Jul 19, 2010 5:16 pm

This afternoon (Monday, 19 July 2010), I attended the unveiling of the 2007 Pinotage in Barkan's top-of-the-line Superieur series. The unveiling was also the raison d'etre of each of the Superieur and Reserve Pinotage wines released since Barkan was the first winery in the country to introduce this varietal wine in 2001.

Vertical tastings are always appreciated as they add perspective to one's knowledge about a particular wine. I will admit to a bit of surprise in this case, however, for the releases tasted dated back to 2001 and even the very best Pinotage wines that I have sampled over the years rarely cellar well for more than six years, many in fact destined for drinking within 3 – 4 years of the vintage.
The tasting was attended by CEO Shmuel Boxer, senior executive Carmi Lebenstein, and winemakers Ed Salzberg, Yotam Sharon and Irit Boxer. My thanks to each of them for a fine tasting and good conversation.


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Rogov


Superieur

Barkan, Pinotage, Superieur, 2007: Dark, almost impenetrable garnet and full-bodied, a meaty and herbal wine with near sweet, gently gripping tannins and spicy wood parting to reveal plums, currants and dried figs, those supported nicely by notes of sweet herbs. Long and generous, with tannins and fruits rising on the finish. Drink now-2014. Score 90. K (Tasted 19 Jul 2010)

Barkan, Pinotage, Superieur, 2002: Dark garnet with a bit of clearing at the rim, full-bodied, with its ripe blackberry, black cherry and currant fruits now showing light overlays of roasted herbs and earthy minerals and first notes of oxidation giving away its maturity. Holds nicely in the glass for 10 minutes and then quietly falls apart. Showing age, so drink up. Score 88. K (Re-tasted twice with consistent notes 19 Jul 2010)

Reserve

Barkan, Pinotage, Reserve, 2008: Dark garnet, full-bodied, with gently gripping tannins. Developed in French and American oak, full-bodied, with aromas and flavors of black currants, plums and figs, those supported nicely by notes of sweet herbs and briar. Drink now-2013. Score 90. K (Re-tasted 19 Jul 2010)

Barkan, Pinotage, Reserve, 2007: My most recent tasting note holds firmly. Oak-aged for 12 months, dark garnet and concentrated, with purple plum and blackberry notes along with sweet and spicy notes that run through this medium- to full-bodied and gently tannic wine. Drink now. Score 87. K (Re-tasted 19 Jul 2010)

Barkan, Pinotage, Reserve, 2006: Dark garnet with orange reflections, its once gripping tannins now integrated nicely and parting to show generous berry, black cherry, purple plum and cassis notes, those supported by notes of earthy minerals and tobacco. Notes of cloves and cinnamon rise on the moderately-long finish. Drink now or in the next year or so. Score 87. K (Re-tasted 19 Jul 2010)

Barkan, Pinotage, Reserve, 2005: Garnet toward purple, now showing medium- to full-bodied, with soft, near-sweet tannins and reflecting its 12 months in oak with generous spicy wood. Opens to show straightforward berry, cherry and plum fruits on a lightly spicy background. Showing better than at earlier tastings but not meant for further cellaring. Drink now. Score 87. K (Re-tasted 19 Jul 2010)

Barkan, Pinotage, Reserve, 2004: With its generous wood and tannins now integrated nicely and parting to reveal blackberries, plums and black cherries, those on a light herbal and leathery background. Medium- to full bodied, still drinking well but not for further cellaring. Drink up. Score 88. K (Re-tasted 19 Jul 2010)

Barkan, Pinotage, Reserve, 2002: Dark garnet, medium- to full-bodied, with its once firm tannins now integrated. Alas, suffering from the "2002 curse" and its berry and currant fruits are now marred by overlays of bitter herbs and a note of balsamic vinegar that develop as the wine sits in the glass. Drink up. Score 85. (Re-tasted 19 Jul 2010)

Barkan, Pinotage, Reserve, 2001: Dark garnet with hints of browning and clearing at the rim, with the acidity now rising together with notes of balsamic vinegar, and on the palate not so much fruity as it is meaty and herbal. Well past its peak and no longer scoreable. K (Re-tasted 19 Jul 2010)
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Joel D Parker

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Re: Barkan Pinotage: A Vertical Tasting (K)

by Joel D Parker » Tue Jul 20, 2010 3:33 am

Daniel Rogov wrote:The tasting was attended by CEO Shmuel Boxer, senior executive Carmi Lebenstein, and winemakers Ed Salzberg, Yotam Sharon and Irit Boxer. My thanks to each of them for a fine tasting and good conversation.


I perfectly respect your curiosity and indeed, willingness to go along to a point with schemes made up by winemakers, but seriously...

I would ask how this was a "fine tasting"? It seems like a complete waste of time for anyone other than the mad scientist who simply must know that his experiment is a failure....

Who's idea was this? Clearly someone either very ignorant or very cynical.

Joel
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Re: Barkan Pinotage: A Vertical Tasting (K)

by Daniel Rogov » Tue Jul 20, 2010 3:53 am

Joel, Hi....

Why a failure? The idea of a vertical is a fascinating one, and this was a "fine tasting" as it served to demonstrate that Israeli Pinotage will react similarly to South African in its longevity.

Perhaps not the ideal public relations event. But then again, for all I know at least some of the sommeliers and wine writes there might have thought that these wines were holding nicely. I suspect my colleagues will publish their own findings in the next few days or weeks and then we shall know what they think as well.

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Re: Barkan Pinotage: A Vertical Tasting (K)

by Joel D Parker » Tue Jul 20, 2010 7:32 am

On second thought, perhaps it is nice to know that a decent kosher Pinotage exists in Israel. But according to the Wine Spectator from 2003, even South Africa has been largely turning away from Pinotage for a number of reasons. [http://www.winespectator.com/webfeature/show/id/Leaving-Pinotage-Behind_1682]

Pinotage has really only retained a sort of novelty appeal on the world market, from what I gather. So, in that sense, I suppose Israel, rather Barkan, hasn't failed, but seems to be experimenting with a lost cause. Obviously, I'm all for variety and applaud the recent comeback of Petit Sirah and Carignan grapes (and enjoy Barkan's Carignan Reserve with certain foods). Pinotage, however, is quite literally a laboratory creation, which has hardly demonstrated greatness anywhere.

And besides that, I still stick by my question as to how a winery with a reputation to protect would serve wine with 'a note of balsamic vinegar' to a group of professional wine makers, critics, and writers. Isn't the point of a vertical tasting to show how wine changes positively over time, or at least how it holds its own? It doesn't seem like either of those were part of the criteria, but more accurately, the tasting was to show that Barkan can take a mediocre grape variety and make above average wine that hangs on for dear life for about five years. Hardly 'longevity'...

Anyway, I've written too much already, but who the heck cares about these wines before 2006? It's not as if any wine store carries them, or any but the most ardent believers in Barkan and Pinotage would have them in their cellar. They don't exist as far as the average consumer is concerned.

(Sorry for ranting. But it's Tisha B'av and one should cry about something, right?)
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Re: Barkan Pinotage: A Vertical Tasting (K)

by Daniel Rogov » Tue Jul 20, 2010 7:43 am

Joel, Hi....

Ah, but some of the finest wines of Rioja, Ribera del Duero and the Southern Rhone will sometimes show hints of balsamico. The note of balsamico has something akin to that of Brett. That is to say, while too much is decidedly road-kill, a bit can be tantalizing.

And, going further on what I wrote earlier, I'll bet you two shekels that at least some of my colleagues will find even the 2001 and 2002 wines with further life ahead of them.

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Re: Barkan Pinotage: A Vertical Tasting (K)

by Mike_F » Tue Jul 20, 2010 11:43 am

Joel D Parker wrote:It seems like a complete waste of time for anyone other than the mad scientist who simply must know that his experiment is a failure....


The most informative experiments are those that fail, they are the only kind of experiment from which we learn something new.
Of course we must be open-minded, but not so open-minded that our brains drop out.”
Richard Dawkins
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Re: Barkan Pinotage: A Vertical Tasting (K)

by Peter May » Tue Jul 20, 2010 7:43 pm

Very interesting, Rogov.

To Joel: There's plenty of room for Pinotage in the worlds' vineyards.

If this forum only discussed wines that any store carries and which exist in the mind of the 'average consumer' then it would be very boring.
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Re: Barkan Pinotage: A Vertical Tasting (K)

by Alexander F » Wed Jul 21, 2010 4:11 am

Hi Rogov,
When do they plan to release them to stores in Israel?

Thanks,
Alex
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Re: Barkan Pinotage: A Vertical Tasting (K)

by Daniel Rogov » Wed Jul 21, 2010 4:15 am

Alex, Hi....

The just released 2007 Superieur should be making its way to market at this time. All of the others have already been released.

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Re: Barkan Pinotage: A Vertical Tasting (K)

by Mike BG » Wed Jul 21, 2010 7:09 am

My own experience was that the first 2 (maybe 3) Pinotage vintages from Barkan were excellent, but the subsequent ones were pretty mediocre.
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Re: Barkan Pinotage: A Vertical Tasting (K)

by Jonathan Kalman » Wed Jul 21, 2010 11:51 am

Mike BG wrote:My own experience was that the first 2 (maybe 3) Pinotage vintages from Barkan were excellent, but the subsequent ones were pretty mediocre.

I agree. I too really enjoyed the first few releases and I think it a pity that subsequent years were not as good. I would like to see more variety, not less, in the Israeli wine scene.
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Re: Barkan Pinotage: A Vertical Tasting (K)

by Alek W » Wed Jul 21, 2010 2:27 pm

Mike BG wrote:My own experience was that the first 2 (maybe 3) Pinotage vintages from Barkan were excellent, but the subsequent ones were pretty mediocre.


According to my notes, 2001 and 2002 vintages of Barkan Reserve Pinotage vere indeed excellent, at their peak at 2005 and 2006/7, respectively. I've never seen the 2003 vintage, 2004 was rather disappointing in 2007, and I decided to stay away from this wine. Now, TN for 2008 vintage looks rather tempting, and I plan to get a bottle or two.
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Re: Barkan Pinotage: A Vertical Tasting (K)

by Daniel Rogov » Wed Jul 21, 2010 2:31 pm

When evaluating Pinotage, I think it important to keep in mind that this is a "controversial" grape in that some (including our noble Peter May and myself) can adore it at its best and others who will scorn it no matter what positive traits they mind in it. Interestingly, perhaps the most controversial of all grapes and thus how one measure it may well be more of a question of personal tastes than of qualities.

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Re: Barkan Pinotage: A Vertical Tasting (K)

by Joel D Parker » Thu Jul 22, 2010 5:35 am

Had a South African Pinotage last night at a bar in Tel Aviv (granted probably not the best example of the grape). I managed to get through the glass, as I wanted to make myself like it. I noted the notes of herbs, plums and briar, with hints of Balsamico coming through. Ultimately though, I just couldn't stand it despite certain positive qualities some people would (and must) like. I know, different strokes for different folks, and I'm sure I'm on the anti-pinotage side of the fence. I could see myself drinking it will some smoked southern pit barbecue, but that's about it. It just tastes weirdly un-fresh and un-lively to me, like the sensation one gets from eating cold stew or boiled fruit.
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Re: Barkan Pinotage: A Vertical Tasting (K)

by Peter May » Fri Jul 23, 2010 7:46 pm

Above and beyond the call of duty, Joel, to have a wine you dislike when there are so many other choices, I praise you for trying another. Which wine was is? And by the glass or from a fresh bottle?

I am amused also that you denigrate Pinotage for being "quite literally a laboratory creation" yet applaud the comeback of Petite Sirah which is also "quite literally a laboratory creation".

Although literally both were created in a vineyard by the simple matter of brushing the pollen of one flower onto another and planting the resulting grape seeds.
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Re: Barkan Pinotage: A Vertical Tasting (K)

by Joel D Parker » Sat Jul 24, 2010 1:57 pm

Hi Peter,

Actually, truth be told, the bar I was at was not a wine bar, and in fact, only had three red wines: an Argentinian Cabernet, a Chilean Merlot, and a South African Pinotage (all without specific details on the menu). I think the glass was from a freshly opened bottle, as I generally know if it's not. Nonetheless, my prejudice against Pinotage was supported by this example. I will have to continue the search for a Pinotage that I like, that's also available in Israel, which can disconfirm my rule. (Btw, my wife had the Merlot, and it was very simple, but nevertheless a pretty decent representation of the stereotypical Chilean Merlot.)

I was going to have the Barkan Pinotage Reserve this weekend, but only the 2007 Reserve was available at my local wine store, and I figured I would wait for the 2008 Reserve, or try to find the 2007 Superiore. However, I did have the 2007 Barkan Reserve Carignan, which is a great wine I plan on drinking again and again. It's interesting, lush, and goes great with food--not to mention it's a reasonable 65 NIS (or about 17 or 18$).

As for Petite Sirah, I am happy to learn that it's also a hybrid, and seems quite successful. Honestly, I don't really know if the hybrid nature of Pinotage is why I haven't been able to develop a taste for it (to date). I have pretty much enjoyed some of the top Israeli Petite Sirahs, such as that of Vitkin and Chillag. I still think PS is really better as a minor blended ingredient than as a single grape wine, though that's just my opinion.

Have a good week,
Joel
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Re: Barkan Pinotage: A Vertical Tasting (K)

by Daniel Rogov » Sat Jul 24, 2010 2:18 pm

Point of Information

Neither the Pinotage nor the Petite Sirah grapes are hybrids. Hybrids are the offspring of grapes of two different species (e.g. Vinfera and Vitis Labrusca), while crosses are made from breeding a new variety from two grapes of the same species.

Pinotage, for example, is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault and Petite Sirah (also sometimes known as Durif) is a cross between Syrah and Peloursin.

Little known fact – even the noble Syrah grape is a cross in this case from two obscure grapes, neither of which produces very interesting wines – Dureza and Mondeuse Blanche.

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Re: Barkan Pinotage: A Vertical Tasting (K)

by Peter May » Sat Jul 24, 2010 5:45 pm

I believe that all the wine grape varieties we now enjoy are crosses of other grapes. Some are fairly recent, such as Cab Sauvignon, Riesling and Chardonnay and because their parent varieties are still being cultivated DNA testing can reveal their parentage. Some, such as Pinot Noir, are ancient

What they all have in common is that they have survived because man has selected them for their qualities and propagated them.
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Re: Barkan Pinotage: A Vertical Tasting (K)

by Daniel Rogov » Sat Jul 24, 2010 5:57 pm

Peter, Hi....

I woud agree more fully with your sentiment had you said that "...wine grape varieties we now enjoy are crosses or hybrids of other grapes.

As to some of the hybrids, I suspect the term "enjoyment" is much a matter of personal interpretation.

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Re: Barkan Pinotage: A Vertical Tasting (K)

by Peter May » Sat Jul 24, 2010 6:27 pm

I was trying not to muddy the water here since the above discussion has been about vinifera varieties. While hybrid has a specific meaning in viticulture, a hybrid variety is still the result of a crossing :)

I do enjoy some hybrid varieties, the Cayuga White I posted about on the main forum and Baco Noir, Vidal Blanc as an ice wine, and Norton (although the precise parentage of Norton seems uncertain) are just some.

The sentiment that if a variery is the result of a man-made cross it is less worthy than natural cross made in the wild is often stated, yet wherever a grape seed takes root a new variety has grown*: my point is that man selected the varieties to be cultivated.


*I'm writing this in the NE USA where woods and the sides of roads are lined with uncountable numbers of new varieties growing wild.

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