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Hamilton Russell to launch Ashbourne Pinotage/Cinsault in the UK

Published:  25 January, 2018

Iconic South African producer Hamilton Russell Vineyards has unveiled plans to launch a new Ashbourne Pinotage/Cinsault blend into the UK market next year.

Owner Anthony Hamilton Russell told Harpers that the first commercial vintage, 2017, had been released in South Africa this year, with plans to export the new cuvee in 2019.

“For some time now, I have wanted to master a blend of these two underrated varieties,” said Hamilton Russell.

“This isn't simply a gimmick,” he added, referring to the curious blend which incorporates 80% Pinotage – a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsault – and an additional 20% of Cinsault from vineyards in the Swartland region.

Hamilton Russell said an initial 500 cases of 12 were made last year, with no plans to expand production.

“I have always been intrigued by the idea of creating a Pinotage with a youthful, fresh, fruit purity un-tarnished by any oak influence. The Hemel-En-Aarde region produces wonderful Pinotage, but it's tighter and more taut – this is a very different expression,” he said.

According to Hamilton Russell, Pinotage has undergone a massive renaissance across the Cape in recent times, with a new firmament of winemakers producing fresher, more elegant wines – “although a certain stigma still hangs over the grape,” he conceded.

“The trade's dislike of the variety is understandable and historic,” he said.

“Pinotage suffered - like so many South African reds - from an industry-wide tendency towards overripeness. As an early ripening grape, better suited to cooler areas, Pinotage suffered particularly from this.”

Renowned for their Pinot Noir and Chardonnay, the family also own a 113ha property on the eastern boundary of Hamilton-Russell Vineyards, which has been producing the Ashbourne Pinotage since 2001, although in some years other varieties made it into the blend.

“In 2015, we decided to stop blending in other varieties and produce a 100% Pinotage expression,” said Hamilton Russell.

“It's time South Africa started doing this misunderstood variety justice - the wonderful intrinsic quality capabilities of the grape have always been there. Bolder, more open-minded, new generation, site-driven winemakers with aesthetic aims far more in tune with sophisticated consumers - local and international - are creating a bright new future for Pinotage.”