Kanonkop Wine Estate is a fourth generation winery, situated on the lower slopes of the Simonsberg Mountain in the Stellenbosch Region of the Cape, South Africa. It falls into the ward of Simonsberg, commonly referred to as the “red wine bowl” of South Africa” because of its soil and microclimates which lend themselves most to the production of red wines. Kanonkop is known first and foremost for its excellent Pinotage, a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut which is truly unique to South Africa.
In the following interview, Debra Meiburg speaks with Kanonkop co-owner Johann Krige, about history of the winery as well as the climate of the region it is situation in. Johann describes the reasons behind why the region is so ideal for the production of red wines, as well as how Stellenbosch differs from other wine producing regions of South Africa. He also explains to Debra what Pinotage is exactly, and recounts a very accurate 2 sentence description of it, which was once scribbled onto the wall of one of their cellars.
Their interview follows:
Hi, I’m Debra and I’m with Johann Krige of Kanonkop Winery in South Africa. So Kanonkop is located where in South Africa?
We are based about 40 km outside of Cape Town, in the small little town of Stellenbosch.
Which is so beautiful…
It is probably one of the leading red wine regions of South Africa.
Give me a little bit of the history behind Kanonkop. It’s been around for a long time.
It’s a fourth generation family business. My great-grandfather started the business and then his son and we are, as I said, the fourth generation. It has very much a focused approach to the business, we only do red wines. We used to do whites and Pinot Noirs and Sauvignon Banc and Rieslings and then one day when I started getting involved at a university level, as a lawyer, I realized you cannot be married to two women. Either red wine or white wine. So now we are into reds. And I think that the soil and the microclimate lend itself more to Cabernet Sauvignon and then, obviously, Pinotage, which is unique to South African.
Could you describe Pinotage?
Pinotage? I can say it in two sentences but I will keep that for a little bit later. It is uniquely South African. I think if you make Pinotage, which is a cross between Pinot Noir and Cinsaut, and you’re trying to capture the main elements of Pinot Noir, being one of the parents, you can get something which is something similar to Pinot Noir but it is a bit more earthy, more farmyard, more minerality in the wine, something quite unique, but more sweet flavors in the wine. Something uniquely South African of which we are very proud.
What brings that smokiness into the wine’s profile?
I think the smokiness probably relates to certain regions where it is a little bit warmer, with a bit more heat, more sun. I wouldn’t describe it as smoky, but you can taste the sun in the wine. And we are a relatively warmer wine producing region, so obviously you’re going to get the smoky, warmer feel to the wine.
And how does Stellenbosch differ from Franschhoek or Paarl?
Stellenbosch has got different mountain slopes, different sea levels, different microclimates in different pockets, and you can grow more of the red varietals in the lower growing areas and more white varietals in the higher slopes. So, we have this diversity, which is beautiful and it really lends itself to a greater diversity in wine growing possibilities. We have to pinpoint those aspects and then we can become one of the leading wine producing regions. I have to get back to that question you asked me about Pinotage and what it really is. Somebody wrote it on the wall of one of our cellars and it goes like this, “Pinotage is the juice extracted from women’s tongues and lions’ hearts.”
“After drinking a sufficient quantity, one can talk forever and fight the devil.”
I love it! Thanks so much.
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