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Published:  23 July, 2008

By Tim Atkin MW

Anything labelled as a Cape Blend should include a mandatory minimum of 30% Pinotage, according to Mike Ratcliffe of Warwick Wine Estate, Stellenbosch. Ratcliffe's views, which will further polarise opinion in the Cape on this issue, are contained in a marketing document which addresses the future of the designation. He concedes that the issue is a political minefield', but argues that providing clarity on a subject to an industry in need of answers should be seen as an immediate priority'. To succeed, he says, such an initiative needs to include a variety of role players, interest groups and power blocks and should be conducted in as transparent a manner as possible'. For the designation to be meaningful, Ratcliffe told Harpers, a Cape Blend should include a minimum of 30% and a maximum of 70% Pinotage, to mark it out from a varietal wine. As Pinotage is the only variety that is truly South African,' he said, it should be clear that in order for a Cape Blend to have intrinsic value as a uniquely South African product, it must be a Pinotage-based blend. South Africa is moving closer to producing consistent world-quality products from this grape and we should be striving to produce other products that add value to Pinotage. A Cape Blend is a logical extension and could become the USP of the South African industry.' Ratcliffe dismissed the argument that, with or without Pinotage, the composition of a Cape Blend should be left entirely to the individual winemaker. This, he said, shows a lack of respect for the global markets and a lack of understanding of the need for differentiation and diversification'.