Val de Vie’s Barista 2009 Pinotage

WINE OF THE BEAN: COFFEE IS A FRUIT

Val de Vie’s Barista 2009 Pinotage, South Africa, 14%, Bradley’s Off Licence, €12.99.
This is a great excuse to call to Bradley's, if you ever need one!
Colour is a dark red and the nose gives up dark red fruit, the bite of plum skins for me, and the famous "rush" of coffee. On the palate, you also find those dark red fruits, also pomegranate and cherry, and that coffee which, remember, is also a fruit.
The deliberately induced coffee (see video) element has led directly to this wine being labelled Barista. Despite that and the lingering dodgy past reputation of the Pinotage grape (“A love it or hate it” – Mr Oz Clarke’s summation), there is nothing to be afraid of here.
This is what Hugh Johnson terms Pinotage Mark 11 and the evolution means there is nothing preventing you from making a call to the iconic North Main Street store, founded in 1850. Where half the world goes anyhow. Massive selection of drinks, just about as many languages.
The coffee in this version by Val de Vie (not by any means the first of its kind) is far from being a dominant factor and there are tannins enough to give a well balanced and quite mature mouthful for a 2009.
In this video , you will see Val de Vie MD Bertus Fourie. His favourite accompaniment “remains a blue cheese-filled brandy snap, with Belgian chocolate and roasted coffee beans”. Didn't have anything that exotic on hand on the football-less Wednesday but there were some high class chocs. Tried them out. Neither the chocs nor the wine were improved by the combining but neither deteriorated either.


Bertus is passionate about the wine and believes that the Barista ‘Coffee Pinotage’ has an important role to play in spreading the gospel of Pinotage internationally, saying, “Barista Pinotage is the most controversial style of Pinotage in the world. Most people crave it once they’ve tasted it. The wine does not speak of terroir, as oak plays the dominant role, accounting for its coffee and chocolate flavours – the richness of coffee beans and the smoothness of creamy chocolate.”
Bertus produced this Barista Pinotage 2009 in the Robertson Winery cellar, using Pinotage grapes from the Robertson district only. In his research Bertus has found that the Pinotage grapes from Robertson, with their vines grown in dark, deep-red soils - usually Glenrosa and Oakleaf - yield the best grapes for this style of wine. Talking about the winemaking process Bertus says, “Where do the coffee aromas come from? This is the magic and the mystery. What we do know for certain is they are a combination of the effects of a specific yeast strain, specific toasting, specific oak type and of course, Pinotage grapes. I do not want to elaborate too much, as there are some trade secrets that I would rather like to keep for ourselves, which, in fact, we have now patented. But briefly, different oak regimens, including different toasting grades, are used for each of the batches.  And our yeast culture naturally plays a special part. The remarkable thing, though, is that only Pinotage grapes produce these coffee flavours.”
The name ‘barista’, originated from Italian and is unashamedly pure coffee nomenclature. A barista is one who is highly skilled in coffee preparation, with a comprehensive understanding of coffee and coffee blending. Baristas are known for their signature styles of coffee. The term ‘barista’ has been expanded to one who might be called a ‘coffee sommelier’. This is most appropriate because the name coffee is derived from the ancient Arabic phrase ‘qahwat al-būnn’, meaning ‘wine of the bean’. And in ancient Eritrea, where coffee was probably first discovered, the Tigrinyan (language) word for coffee was ‘būnn’ also meaning ‘wine of the bean’. And the black and white squares on the neck of the Barista Pinotage bottle depict the floors found in most Italian coffee bars.
The clean lines and minimalist style of the Barista label suggest that this is a wine that can be taken seriously. And it certainly can be. The wine is very smooth despite its youth and there is a seamless integration of wood and fruit. The wine has a screwcap .

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