By Jamie Goode | 2nd May 2024

A few days ago we walked to Greenwich. From our home in the Isle of Dogs it’s a 25 minute walk, finishing with the foot tunnel under the Thames. It’s one that we regularly do. This time we decided to stop for a gelato. There’s something about the absolute deliciousness of good ice cream that is utterly absorbing. It’s the texture, the temperature, the sweetness, the way it melts as you eat it. The result is you get lost in the experience. Other senses diminish and all you do is experience the flavour. I’m not saying that this abandonment into pleasurable flavour experience is unique to ice cream; rather that it’s when I eat ice cream that I recognize it most frequently.


Deliciousness is a quality possessed by some wines that is underrated. When it comes to wine criticism, sometimes there’s a disconnect between professionals and normal wine drinkers, and often the gap is the failure to acknowledge deliciousness. Perhaps this is because it is hard for professionals to make the distinction between wines that are confected and tricked up to appeal to the basest tastes of wine drinkers, and true deliciousness. Sometimes these two characteristics end up being very close together. Do we need to make that judgement at all?

I remember the first time I tried coffee Pinotage, back in the early 2000s. This was a wine style that was invented by a producer called Diemersfontein, who are based in Wellington. The remarkable thing about this wine is that it actually tastes of coffee and chocolate, and it was a huge success that ended up being copied by other producers. The winemaker at Diemersfontein who 'invented' this coffee and chocolate style was Bertus Fourie, who, because of his work, became known in some circles as Bertus 'Starbucks' Fourie. The first vintage was 2001 and it became quite a hit. He was hired by KWV in 2005 to create their Cafe Culture Pinotage, which is a similar style. The owners of Diemersfontein were not best pleased that he left taking his 'recipe' with him. Now this has become a legitimate style of Pinotage, with terms like barista or coffee being used to indicate the style. Bertus is now at Val de Vie winery where he makes a Barista Pinotage.

How is it made? They start off with ripe fruit and remove any unripe or green grapes that might get in the way of the flavour. Then it is all about a combination of yeasts and heavily toasted oak staves added to tanks of wine that add the flavours that work so well in this context.

Coffee Pinotage is a wine style that is at odds with the classical notion of terroir wines, where the distinctive flavour of the wine is dependent on the vineyard characteristics, rather than work in the winery. But I appreciate the need for wines that bring new drinkers to the category. I can look back to when I first started trying wine, and most of them didn’t taste very nice to me. Admittedly, this was back in the early 1990s when I was a student (I didn’t have much money spare for anything but the very cheapest wines) and the average quality of wine in the supermarkets was much lower than it is now. But the first wines I really loved were those that had the quality of deliciousness: I liked red wines with a distinct fruit sweetness and soft tannins, and I liked oaky Chardonnay because it tasted really nice to my novice palate. Of course, tastes change with time. You don’t like stinky cheese the first time you try it, but many people develop a love for these cheeses. Some never do. With wine, some people start off with tasty, easy wines that aren’t hard to enjoy, and then their tastes develop and they explore different wines. Note, I’m not saying their tastes improve: they change. It’s easy to convey a sense of virtue with gastronomy, but while many of us go on a journey with food and wine there is no moral premium attached to having niche or ‘sophisticated’ tastes. Each to their own. Many people will start with easy-to-drink wine styles and then stick there. It’s the job of the wine industry to offer many styles of wines to match the diverse set of customers, and then help people to find the wines they like.

Even as a professional, I’m careful not to lose the joy of appreciating all styles of wine. I’ve just finished two and a half weeks of judging a major international wine competition, and during this time I have tasted wines from everywhere, at all price points. I want to keep the ability to stay in that place of deliciousness: even though I sometimes have to judge in an analytic way, I want to keep the fun and joy of drinking something simple but good, in the right context. Give me a fruity rosé, ice cold, in view of the sea on a sunny day over a first growth Bordeaux in a white tablecloth restaurant with strangers obsessing over the wine. Or the joy of sipping a cheap plastic bottle of red wine in an economy class seat on a long haul flight to somewhere nice watching a popular Hollywood movie eating bad food. There is pleasure to be had in many circumstances, and that’s why it’s so good to see people enjoying coffee Pinotage who might not be drinking were it not for this superbly accessible style of wine.