Pinotage and biltong a perfect pairing

A trend that is catching on like wildfire among wine lovers is the unlikeliest pairing of wine with South Africa's own invention - biltong.

For long an inseparable companion of beer at rugby matches, this cured meat has struck something of a romance with wine - especially Pinotage.

The throngs that filled the venues hosting the Pinotage & Biltong festivals in Cape Town and Gauteng in recent weeks bore testimony to the growing popularity of the pairing.

The icing on the cake of this match is the common heritage of both wine and the cured meat delicacy, which are as South African as the vuvuzela or boerewors.

Which is what the Pinotage & Biltong Festival held at the leafy Leriba Lodge in Centurion recently was all about. Hundreds of wine lovers turned out to enjoy a picnic setting while lolling under shade of the trees and sprawling lawns with a glass from a pick of 50 different Pinotages from the Cape.

For the uninitiated, biltong is cured and dried meat that was created by the indigenous people of South Africa to preserve it. The pairing with Pinotage exploits common characteristics between the two - biltong's spicy, earthy and smoky flavours as well as the spicy, savoury, herbaceous, earthy and berry flavours in Pinotage.

Tasting revealed that barbecue biltong easily paired with rosé - and the Delheim and Lanzerac rosés aptly rose to the occasion, as did "coffee" Pinotages like Simonsvlei Mocha Pinotage and Van Loveren African Java Pinotage. Lemon pepper biltong was equally at home with the only known white Pinotage in the world, Mellasat Pinotage, as well as with the red Beyerskloof Chenin Pinotage.

A surprising pairing was that of semi-sweet Pinotage bubbly with biltong chilli bites as well as with Pinotage-laced port, showing that sweetness of the wines is able to quell the peri peri in a spicy biltong.

Pinotage symbolises strength and fortitude, as testified to in the quote by an anonymous Pino lover, who said: "Pinotage has the heart of a lion and the tongue of a woman; after drinking a certain quantity you can talk forever and fight like the devil!"

And in biltong someone perceived endurance and mused, "when life gives you lemons, ask if you can exchange them for biltong".

Mason Mokoena, Thabile Mkwane, Abee Malamule, Khosi Rathethe, Siyabonga Sithole, Gordon Sibusiso Molete, Thembekile Mathebula, Kago Seleke, Thomas Mlangeni, Mzonke Thonyama and Katlego Mokwana.

All will be attending Jozi's largest wine show at the Sandton Convention Centre that started last night and ends tomorrow.