March may have come in like a lion and left like a lamb but a new breed of import to the United States came roaring in, taking the form of Pinotage Grapes from the Western Cape region of the Republic of South Africa. The first containers destined for local winemakers throughout the Mid-Atlantic, including the Gino Pinto School of Wine in Hammonton, arrived in great condition and was quickly cleared by the U.S. Authorities before being delivered for preparation and pressing. The Pinotage variety is a unique red wine grape that is South Africa's signature variety. It was cultivated there in 1925 as a cross between Pinot noir and Cinsaut (Cinsaut was known as "Hermitage" in South Africa during that time, hence the portmanteau name of Pinotage). It typically produces deep red varietal wines with smoky, bramble and earthy flavors. It provides a wonderful counterpoint to the South American staples that the Pinto school teaches people to make such as Carmenere, Malbec and others. These balance well with the more well-known Chardonnay, Pinot Grigio, Cabernet Sauvignon, Pinot Noir and Cabernet Franc blends the school typically makes.
"The Pinotage variety is the next in a long history of exotic grapes that Gino Pinto has brought to the US market,” said Michael Pinto, CEO of Gino Pinto, Inc. "This includes grapes sourced from California, Chile, Italy and Argentina. As far as we know this is the first time the South African wine grapes have been imported for our type of use.  After much searching we partnered with Gerrit van den Merwe, Jr., an experienced hand in citrus from South Africa. He managed all of the intense details of the preparation and packing including the obtaining of permissions from USDA and the other required agencies. His experience in export logistics was invaluable. More importantly the entire shipment was "sold out on arrival" showing an appetite (or a thirst) for good products priced affordably." Gerrit van den Merwe Jr., whose main business is growing, packing and exporting citrus from the Western Cape throughout the world, took on the challenge to source and oversee this new business. "We have been farming for many generations and grapes are a natural product for South Africa for centuries since their introduction. The opportunity to supply our grapes for the increasingly popular wine making industry in the United States had many challenges. Our job was to source excellent quality and then overcome those challenges. We were able to use our robust citrus business and supply chain partners such as Capespan North America and Holt Logistics Corp to ensure smooth delivery to the end user." Tom Mastromarco, Director of Fruit Marketing and Customer Service for Holt Logistics, added "The Italians have known for millennia that the best sort of team building, conflict resolution, celebration and sustaining activity happens when friends and soon to be friends gather round and mark the seasons' changes with food and, of course, wine. We have been using Pinto's platform for meetings and events for many years."