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Lievland Vineyards 'Bushvine' Pinotage, Paarl, Western Cape 2020

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Lievland Vineyards 'Bushvine' Pinotage, Paarl, Western Cape, South Africa 2020

Lievland, directly translated, means “Love Land” and there are few who come onto this historic Stellenbosch estate that isn’t charmed by its bucolic beauty. 20 years ago, Lievland was considered one of South Africa’s top wine estates.

The farm is situated in Stellenbosch, along what is referred to as the Simonsberg “Golden Mile” of wine estates. Along the way, this historic wine estate garnered several firsts: it is said to be the first to have a female winemaker and the first to produce a certified barrel-fermented Chenin Blanc.

  • Winemaker: Riaan Möller and Mahalia Kotjane
  • Farming: Sustainable (IPW Certified)
    Variety: 85% Pinotage, 8% Grenache, 4% Dry-Farmed Syrah, 3% Old Vine Cinsault
  • Terroir: A blend of two bushvine Paarl vineyards, South-facing slopes, decomposed granite, 590-1475 feet. The Eenzaamheid (Solitude) farm provided roughly 65% of the blend. This is a 22-year-old bush-vine, dry-farmed vineyard. It is a windy site that ripens late and tends to give fruit with thick skins, good color, and a soft, rich, classic style. The Hoogstede (High Place) farm provided 35% of the blend. This is a cool site with decomposed granite soils and tends to be early ripening, making wine with more structure and freshness.
  • Vinification: The grapes were hand-picked into small lug boxes in the cool early mornings of February 2018 after which they were taken to the winery for destemming, crushing, and chilling. After two days of cold maceration, fermentation commenced. Mixing was done by means of pump-overs three times daily. Due to Pinotage having a naturally thick skin and a correspondingly high phenolic content, the wine was separated from the skins immediately after fermentation and pumped directly to barrel.
  • Aging: 13 months aging- all French oak, 15% new and the balance 2nd, - 3rd,- and 4th-fill. Bottled in June 2019 with a light polishing filtration. Only 11,400 bottles made.
  • Tasting Note: Made in an elegant, light-bodied and modern style, this Pinotage shows vibrant notes of cherry and raspberry, with a hint of cedar and vanilla from the oak aging. The palate has rich red fruit and the savoriness typical of the variety.
  • Pairings: This wine can be enjoyed with traditional South African dishes such as roasted Karoo lamb or Springbok pie or even served slightly chilled with Cape Malay curried fish.
  • Scores: 91+ Decanter - Lovely nose of mulberry, cherry with touches of cedar and black tea. Fresh on the palate with crunchy tannin.

DECANTsf's May 2021 Explorer Club notes:

Hey, everyone. It’s Cara here with a confession: I used to hate Pinotage, I really did. Of the samples I’ve sampled in the past, the dense, inky black juice with aromas of burning rubber and smoked salami were always more than a little off-putting, and I had a sneaking suspicion that the mass-market Pinotage available in much of The States was not exactly showing off South Africa’s best efforts. This has been a bias of mine since I started drinking wine, and it has taken about 15 years  (and a handful of surprising new producers) to change my mind about this variety completely

    Pinotage is a grape that is so synonymous with South Africa to see it produced elsewhere would be startling. First cultivated as a cross of Pinot Noir and Cinsault vines in the 1920s, it has become a common workhorse grape throughout South Africa’s varied microclimates. The Cinsault parentage brings easy ripening with high sugars and tannin. The variety inherits a lighter, acid-forward elegance from the Pinot Noir side of the family, but oftentimes the fruit is left hanging on the vine to a point of overripeness (resulting in high alcohol levels and cooked fruit flavors). However,  if a winegrower treats Pinotage a little more like Pinot Noir in the vineyard (astute canopy management, picking earlier at lower sugar levels) and in the winery (limited skin maceration, whole-cluster techniques), the Pinotage variety can really reach delicious heights. 

    Enter Lievland Vineyards.  Lievland, which is Afrikaans for Loveland, is situated in the beautiful Western Cape countryside of Paarl. The main house on the property dates to 1865, and throughout its history, winemaking has been the pursuit. There are legends of a widowed Latvian Baroness who found herself horse-plowing these fields with her five children. A female winemaker first barrel-aged Chenin Blanc here long before it became a South African winemaking standard. But the ebbs and flows of the South African wine industry could be felt here, as it wasn’t until 2017 when José Conde and Tyrrel Myburgh, co-founders of MAN Family Vineyards, purchased and revitalized this overgrown and long-neglected property, restoring not only the vineyards to their former glory, but the name of Lievland as well. 

    South Africa’s wine industry has been through much strife in its history, with State-controlled monopoly dominating the high-quantity/low-quality cooperatives which kept  growers at subsistence incomes, and of course, a long history of intense racial segregation and apartheid and  resulting global economic sanctions which until the 1990s, kept South Africa as a mere blip in the world of fine wine. It is no wonder that it has taken a lot of time and effort for high quality wines to make the journey to our shores. This history of colonization and apartheid cannot be forgotten, and there, as in America, stories of thriving Black female winemakers is something worth celebrating. Mahalia Kotjane, assistant winemaker, has been endeavoring in wine since she was in high school, buying  fruit from local markets and experimenting with fermentation at home.  She enrolled in an agricultural university before finding her passion in Oenology. Together with Riaan Möller (also winemaker at parent-company  MAN Family Wines), they work to create modern, sustainable wines of grace and delicacy, showcasing the terroir of this bucolic slice of heaven. Instead of the overtly smokey, dense Pinotage styles of yore, Mahalia and Riaan use a soft hand, blending Pinotage with Syrah, Grenache, and old vine Cinsault. Handpicked in the cool early morning, the harvest was destemmed, macerated on its skins for 2 days in very cold conditions, and fermentation started with a few days of pumpovers to integrate the phenolic aromas of the grape skins with its juice. But because Pinotage is known to extract high tannin, as soon as primary fermentation finished, the juice was racked off the skins and put directly into a mix of neutral French oak  barrels, where it rested for 13 months before bottling. This is a wine you’ll love to drink, and will mostly likely be your favourite expression of Pinotage. 

    Thinking about pairing this wine with food? The winery recommends Springbok Pie, but being that Springbok isn’t readily available  in the Bay Area, you may as well try some roasted lamb, or add a slight chill to the bottle and enjoy with Malay-style curried fish!

— Cara Patricia, May 2021